Many celebrities practice fasting and the media echo it. But how healthy is it? We answer this great question.
Every day we have more news about intermittent fasting in the media. No wonder when Elsa Pataky or her husband, Chris Hemsworth —Thor in the movies—, Jennifer Aniston, Hugh Jackman or Nicole Kidman practice it. Seeing the cast of characters that do it, the easiest thing is to think: “Well, me too!” But what is the intermittent fasting diet and what types are there?
Fasting is not a new thing it is done in various religious practices; as in the Ramadan of the Muslims, the Yom Kippur of the Jews and even the Romans and the Greeks practiced it. In this context, its function is to purify, cleansing the spirit. The Greeks went somewhat further and recognized their therapeutic effects to rejuvenate or revitalize body and mind, as well as to cure some diseases.
Types of fasting
If one searches the Internet, it is easy to find different diets based on fasting. One of the best known is the so-called ’16 / 8 ‘, which consists of fasting 16 hours and eating only in the remaining 8, in three meals for example. A variant is the so-called ‘ warrior diet’, in which food intake is limited to a window of 4 hours a day, nothing more. The ‘5/2’ diet that consists of eating whatever you want for 5 days and the other 2 restrict caloric intake to 400-600 calories – that is, almost eat nothing. Then there are the diets that are fasted 24 hours in a row, of which there are several modalities: alternate days, two days a week, at will, etc.
In our neighboring country, Italy, the ‘Fiorello diet’, which is a known comedian and showman of this country, is all the rage. This regimen consists of something as easy as skipping dinner. Come on, what our grandparents told us: “I never eat dinner or eat fruit, nothing more” has made it a media issue with its consequent economic and advertising benefits.
What are its benefits?
These regimes are based on the fact that the human being feeds in a diurnal way. Every night we perform an involuntary fast of 6-8 hours while we sleep and in nature, there are no animals that eat regularly three times a day. During fasting periods, insulin and cortisol are reduced, reducing glucose and cholesterol levels.
It seems that cell repair processes are accelerated, the oxidation of our tissues slows down, the nervous system is detoxified. All the above makes, in theory, that the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s is delayed and that we increase our longevity and, of course, that we lose weight.
Unfortunately, these benefits of fasting are theoretical claims. There are few scientific papers to support them, the majority are in animals or athletes or elite athletes and, therefore, the results are hardly extrapolated to the general population. Of course, the long-term effects are unknown. What is known is that they are discouraged in pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding, people with low weight or some chronic disease, such as diabetes, for example.
If what you want is to lose weight, what the scientific community and most societies related to the topic recommend is to make a low-calorie diet until you reach the desired weight and change habits by exercising regularly. All this under the strict control of a specialist doctor and a nutritionist who periodically checks the state of health during the diet.