Home / Feature / Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Fasting

Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Fasting

By Shofi Ahmed:

The health benefits of Ramadan are widely known. Countless numbers of scientific researches and findings have confirmed that. If anyone still doubts not so happy to take it without a pinch of salt. Then along with the others who believe and want to explore more, you are on the right page. Read on here you will see the names of the scientists and organisations that keep talking healthy about fasting and put their stamps of approval on it with pride.

To start with the question can be why fasting? Wouldn’t just cutting on food, eating less or no meat and fewer potatoes a day have the same effect? The answer is very clear it’s a no says professor Mark Mattson chief of the American Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging.

Revealing his finding professor Mattson explains that every time you eat, glucose is stored in your liver as glycogen, which takes about 10 to 12 hours to be depleted. After the glycogen is used up, your body starts burning fats, which are converted to ketone bodies, acidic chemicals used by neurons as energy. Ketones promote positive changes in the structure of synapses important for learning, memory, and overall brain health. But if you eat three meals a day with snacks between, your body doesn’t have the chance to deplete the glycogen stores in your liver, and the ketones aren’t produced. Mattson says exercise can also get your body to lower its glycogen levels, and not coincidentally, exercise has been shown to have the same positive effects on brain health as fasting.

BBC aired a 2012 documentary called Eat Fast and Live Longer in which professor Mattson was featured. He advises that Fasting is a challenge to your brain, and we think that your brain reacts by activating adaptive stress responses that help it cope with disease.

Fasting has been proven to be a super dietary approach to excite researchers for ages. People practice it within various religions for millennia. In the very earlier days, the ancient Greeks marvelled at its impact on the body and mind. For centuries, doctors noticed it could reduce epileptic seizures. Paracelsus, a 16th-century German-Swiss physician, called it “the physician within.”

“Fasting is the body’s built-in fixer it holds the power to heal,” said Valter Longo, a cell biologist and fasting researcher at the University of Southern California. “But now, because we eat all the time, that inner repair has been eliminated,” he added:  “We are not benefiting anymore from this ability.”

As fasting has grown in popularity, scientists and nutritionists have developed different methods of the practice. Some, such as Allen, practice time-restricted feeding, like the 20:4 regimen. Some push the approach to 23:1, cramming all their eating into one hour of a 24-hour day. Other approaches space out fasting days throughout the week, such as the 5:2 method — two days of fasting over seven days. Some enthusiasts supplement their practice with dayslong fasts.

According to British research dietitian Michelle Harvie, The Journal of Nutrition published the first study on fasting in 1946. It showed that rats deprived of food every third day lived longer and were less likely to develop tumours than control animals. Later work showed that fasting spurs metabolic changes similar to those of CR. (Before fasting, there was Caloric Restriction or CR.)

In a 2017 study in Science Translational Medicine, 71 participants who completed the fasting-mimicking diet showed health benefits including weight loss, lower blood pressure and a drop in levels of the hormone IGF-1, which primarily stimulates growth but also plays a role in regulating blood glucose levels.

We can keep counting on the proven health benefits of Ramadan. However, these superb health benefits are only bonuses that do not constitute our full-blown spectacular Ramadan oasis. That’s the happiness of Allah SWT we fast because we have been prescribed to fast. The plethora of rewards that come with it is only bonuses.