Intermittent Fasting has been a popular way to eat for many people trying to maximize their weight-loss potential for years. The whole concept behind Intermittent Fasting is to force the body to use fat for energy, instead of sugar from recently eaten food.
I first heard about the concept of Intermittent Fasting when attending a lecture by Michael Lara, M.D. in 2011. Dr. Lara is a Stanford-trained physician who prescribes the latest evidence-based strategies to help patients overcome common neuropsychiatric conditions. A member of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and a Diplomate of The American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine, Dr. Lara travels around the country educating allied health professionals on anti-aging and nutritional health strategies, such as Intermittent Fasting.
More recently, Intermittent Fasting has emerged as a treatment for Type II Diabetes by a Canadian Nephrologist, Jason Fung. Dr. Fung uses Intermittent Fasting to reverse Type II Diabetes in many of the patients referred to his clinic in the advanced stages of kidney disease. This article will unearth the whys and wherefores of this much-misunderstood eating plan.
Dr. Fung and medical doctors and researchers who preceded him discovered evidence to support the main culprit in Diabetes and subsequent chronic diseases as being largely Insulin Resistance. They noticed that by the time glucose levels are abnormally high, the insulin has been responding erratically for some time, and the glucose level has been out of control for years.
Dr. Fung believes that obesity is a hormonal disease, and you can fix hormones through calorie restriction. Insulin is the primary hormone that promotes fat storage and weight gain. To normalize the function of insulin, the cue for the release of insulin must be adjusted. It has been discovered that periods of Fasting, as in an intermittent fasting meal plan, affect the release of insulin naturally, and cause the insulin levels to adjust to a healthy level.
One of the reasons Intermittent Fasting works is because without the signal to burn energy, as what happens when a person fasts, a person feels tired and sluggish. There is plenty of fuel available, but it’s all “locked away” in the fat cells, and it will remain unavailable until the body receives the appropriate signal, a drop in insulin. This is why it’s so difficult to lose weight when a person is insulin resistant. The key to breaking this cycle is to have sustained low insulin for periods, and this is what happens naturally during Fasting. Intermittent Fasting research has demonstrated that periods of fasting lower insulin levels more powerfully than any other strategy, which then triggers the stored energy (body fat) to be released and used as energy.
Intermittent Fasting science draws much of its foundation from the work that Dr. Elliot Joslin, one of the most famous Diabetes Doctors in history, discovered the positive effect Fasting had on Diabetes. In 1916, Dr.Joslin wrote about fasting in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and thought that it was so evident that Fasting was helpful that studies would not even be necessary. In 1916, medical science had not yet distinguished Type I fromType II Diabetes. Since Fasting is not generally prescribed for Type I Diabetes, and Type 2 Diabetes was quite unusual back then, Fasting, which would have most likely been an intermittent Fasting meal plan, did not gain a following in the medical community.
After the discovery of insulin in the early 1920s, most doctors looked to medications as the answer for both types of Diabetes, and Fasting fell by the wayside. However, evidence for the effectiveness of fasting for Type II Diabetes was evident during both World Wars. The mortality from Diabetes dropped precipitously during wartime, and between wars, as people went back to their usual eating habits, it went back up. Since Type II Diabetes is essentially a disease of excessive sugar in the body, reducing the intake of sugars and carbohydrates caused less disease. Dr. Fung has based his Intermittent fasting approach as a result of research and observation over the past century. (1)
The most popular Intermittent Fasting mealtime schedules are 12 hours of Fasting, with a 12-hour window for meals;14 hours of Fasting, with a 10-hour window for meals; 16 hours of fasting and an 8-hour window for meals, up to several days, if cleared by your primary care provider. The Intermittent Fasting Research has demonstrated that this method of eating causes a metabolic switch from using sugar to fat for energy. (1) The source of energy used is in the form of ketones, which saves muscle mass from being consumed, as often happens during dieting — much of the Intermittent research Fasting as a way to improve physical and mental function. More research is needed to document these findings, but much of what has been unearthed over the years is very promising.
(1) Suleiman Furmli, Rami Elmasry, and Jason Fung, et al. Therapeutic use of Intermittent Fasting for People with Type 2 Diabetes as an Alternative to Insulin. BMJ Case Reports, October 9, 2018.
(2) Stephen D. Anton, Keelin Moehl, and Mark P. Mattson, et al. Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying Health Benefits of Fasting. Obesity. October 31, 2017.