The benefits of fasting and caloric restriction

Published June 10, 2021, 11:02 AM

by Dr. Kaycee Reyes

Not just dieting

Have you tried fasting or cutting calories? When it comes to fasting or reducing caloric intake, dieting is what initially comes to mind. But some studies have shown promising results that there are great health benefits that come with it too. Aside from weight loss, fasting and caloric restriction have been reported to improve heart health, brain health, prevent certain diseases, and more. Well, it looks like cutting calories could go beyond dieting after all!

Do you know that the word “breakfast” means “breaking the fast?” Fasting is the conscious restraint from eating and drinking for a certain period of time. It dates back centuries as it was mainly a part of religious practices. Fasting did not only focus on food. Depending on the culture, it may also extend to refraining from certain activities or restricting only certain kinds of food. It holds different meanings across religions, from fasting being done to observe an event or a form of meditation. Early on, fasting was also recognized for health reasons. Philosophers such as Plato and Hippocrates promoted fasting to enhance cognitive function, encourage healing, and for better overall health. Fast forward to the 1900s, fasting and caloric restriction were further studied to confirm their health benefits. It has been reported that fasting and caloric restriction have health benefits that may:

  • Reduce inflammation. Fasting can lower the number of monocytes, or inflammation-causing cells, in the blood (Jordan et al., 2019).
  • Improve cardiovascular and cognitive function as according to a study by Mattson and Wan on rodents (2005).
  • Increase lifespan. Fasting may also extend one’s years as tested on rats (Goodrick et al., 1983).
  • Prevent chronic illnesses such as cancer. Fasting can cause autophagy or a process where cells remove damaged ones. This process may be triggered by fasting (Bagherniya et al., 2018).

While fasting shows promise in promoting good health and preventing chronic disease or delaying disease severity, more studies are still needed to prove its outcomes, especially on humans. Moreover, its success also depends on the following factors such as the type of fast, the duration of the fast, the age of the individual, his/her state of health, and so on. That being said, fasting could also be dangerous for others, such as those who have existing chronic illnesses or those who may be more susceptible to eating disorders. This is why before trying a fast, consult with your physician, especially if you have current underlying conditions. There should be professional guidance before doing such drastic measures even for a short period of time. And while fasting is something to consider, eating well, staying active, avoiding stress, and getting enough sleep are still your best bets for longevity and good health.