Any time you restrict calories, your body reacts. When you eat, your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into the sugar glucose, the body’s major source of energy. Glucose is absorbed from the digestive tract into the blood, which then travels to your body’s cells to provide them with fuel. When you don’t eat:
- The supply of glucose in your blood starts to drop, and your body eventually turns to stored glucose, called glycogen, for energy.
- Once the glycogen is used up, your body begins to burn fat and muscle stores to make its own glucose to fuel your cells.
- After a few days without eating (which experts don’t recommend), your body kicks into ketosis mode, meaning you burn fat as the primary source of fuel, in order to spare muscle.
- In ketosis mode, you will lose weight as you burn body fat. Note that ketosis also makes your blood more acidic and can cause bad breath, fatigue, and other unpleasant symptoms.
- Longer fasts (multiple weeks without food) can lead to kidney and liver damage.
There’s a Chance Fasting Can Fight Cancer
In a rodent study published in July 2016 in the journal Cancer Cell, found that a fasting-mimicking diet, combined with chemotherapy, helped the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells. Mice on the diet had smaller tumors than mice receiving only chemotherapy. Periods of fasting have also been shown to slow the rate of cell division (a measure of cancer risk) in mice, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. But researchers aren’t sure why, exactly; it may result from a decrease in certain growth factors, specifically insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), associated with cancer.
IGF-1 is highly correlated with prostate cancer and colon cancer, so it makes sense that if caloric restriction reduces IGF-1 (which it does) that that could be a player in reducing cancer. But again, until we show that that’s the case — that it does reduce cancer in humans — it’s speculation,” notes study author Marc Hellerstein, MD, PhD, professor of nutritional science and toxicology at University of California in Berkeley. This research is preliminary and is still limited to animal models, so more data on humans is necessary before fasting solely for cancer prevention is recommended.
You can start practicing intermittent fasting using this simple schedule
- Stop eating at 7 pm
- Only drink water, tea or coffee without any calories
- Start eating after 11 am
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Dr. Rae and Dr. Vargas