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July 11, 2016

Intermittent fasting and human health. Must read!

Fasting has been practiced by many cultures for millennia for religious reasons or natural occurrences. This would make sense for many reasons, the least of which was intermittent food scarcity.

Last year, I listened to a mind moving podcast with Dr. Dom D'Agostino entitled The End of Cancer that led me to try daily fasting. After 10 months of experimenting with intermittent fasting, I finally have a long enough period of time to assess the functionality of this eating pattern as an N of 1 study.

Over this time, I have been eating primarily during the hours of 12pm and 6pm with occasional shifts in the eating pattern based on life events, but always maintaining at least 16 hours of no caloric intake. Importantly, I eat roughly the same volume of calories which are just compressed into a 6 hour period of time.

Here are some interesting things happened in my N of 1 trial:

1) I rarely snack or consume any foods late at night any more. This in hindsight was a very common event. Consuming popcorn, chips at 9 or even 11 pm while watching movies was a frequent event. My sleep improved so much in quality (I admit that I never thought that it was bad) that I was requiring less sleep and feeling even better. My fitbit was reading an average of 6 to 6 and 1/2 hours of sleep per night and I was feeling more energetic.

2) My morning routine no longer revolves around eating and has shifted towards meditating and stretching or writing. The liberating feeling of not having to need to eat to feel good and having more free time for myself is amazing. I truly used to believe that I had to eat 3-6 times a day to feel good and whole. Completely untrue! I eat twice a day now and feel better than I can remember.

3) I also find that my morning mental clarity is better. I am intensely focused in the morning now. I attribute this to two reasons: 1) I am not using energy to digest food that puts us in a certain digestive sleepy mode. Think about the desire for a nap after meals. 2) Food protein antibody sensitivity interactions are taking place less frequently and this is reducing inflammation and negative feelings.

What are the known scientific benefits of intermittent fasting?

1) Increased fat burning over carbohydrate burning - When you give the body lots of carbohydrates, it produces fat preferentially. Conversely, fatty oxidation burns fat and produces ketones when you deprive the body of carbohydrates for prolonged periods of time. Ketones are a fabulous brain food.

2) Increased insulin sensitivity - this occurs because you are reducing the period of time that the body sees carbohydrates which up regulates the insulin receptors improving response to sugar when it is consumed. Ideally, consuming no added sugars or flour foods will enhance this even more dramatically.

3) Stabilizes the ghrelin hormone also known as the hunger hormone. Intermittent fasting reduces the feeling of hunger. I perceived this soon after starting to fast.

4) Improves lipid levels that are associated with heart attack risk.

5) Increases HGH or human growth hormone.

6) Reduced oxidative damage, inflammation and enhanced cellular resilience pathways. All of which decrease disease risk.

Words of caution - this type of eating pattern is not for everyone. Diabetics, pregnant and breastfeeding women, hypoglycemic reactive individuals, and others all need to be cautious when dieting. They can do it, but will need help with controlling blood sugar and maintaining adequate caloric intake. I find that women and children have a harder time with intermittent fasting. Therefore, it is not recommended unless under the supervision of a knowledgeable provider. This may be evolutionary as women need to eat steadily to maintain fat levels above 10% body fat to reproduce effectively.

As with anything, experiment with food timing only after you have thoroughly understood the plus and minus of every scenario and have consulted a physician or nutritionist experienced in fasting. I and many of my friends have found it to be very useful and I plan to continue it. More data will be forthcoming over the next decade. Read the articles at the bottom and be informed.

I can clearly say that experimenting with food and exercise can have a positive benefit. Over the past 9 years, I have done exactly that and have all but eliminated my cholesterol overload, cardiac risk, arthritis, and I actually feel younger in body terms as I chronologically age.

How do you translate this food experimentation to children?

1) EVERYONE is DIFFERENT! If your son or daughter says that he or she the feels better skipping a meal, it may be true. Evidence is showing that breakfast may be unnecessary for some. The only caveat here is that unhealthy food when you eat is never accepted as a good thing because science and medicine know this to be FALSE. Therefore, when your child is hungry, only quality foods should be offered.

2) ENCOURAGE your kids to be experimenters with their physiology and activity level through trial and error but only after rigorous study of the data. For example, children that do not sweat well have a known physiologic negative effect on their body during exercise, they cannot cool down well. I do not encourage a child to test the threshold of hyperthermia while exercising, therefore, I counsel them to drink tons of water on hot days to counter the lack of body cooling sweat. However, if a child wants to test his body with gluten free or dairy free diet patterns and then assess outcome, game on!

3) SUCCESS favors the BOLD. I think that my kids need to know that they are more likely to be successful in anything that they put their mind to and take chances on, knowing that failure is around the corner often. If they read, prepare, plan and then execute the plan, they have a greater probability of success. Intermittent fasting is a way that I have become more functional and successful at tasks that I have set for myself based on my physiology. My close friends and family know that I have failed often. Failure is truest event that I have routinely lived that leads to future gains in my personal, spiritual and work life. Failing in medicine is close to torture because your mistake hurts another who puts their faith in you to help them. My kids need to know this. I tell them of my failures because they never see them. They only see the success and what I call the "Facebook reality". That reality is, as everyone knows, mostly not true. Hence the reason I avoid posting personal things on social media.

Be bold with your health and logevity,
Dr. M

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