At MD Health, we strive to be well-read and up to date with the current literature surrounding several health issues.

This article, (from New Scientist magazine, 20th October 2018) outlines the supposed benefits of intermittent fasting and some of the short-term effects on the body following fasting.

The article outlines the following points:

  • Although there are numerous hypothesised positive effects of fasting diets (including ketogenic, paleolithic diets), scientific trials have yet to confirm many of these effects.
  • In short term studies (duration 3 months) health markers such as body mass index, visceral fat and blood pressure were all significantly reduced (particularly in overweight to obese subjects), however it is unclear whether this can be explained by the simple fact that the subjects lost weight in general.
  • During fasting, the body is supposed to go through a process called “ketosis”, where fat stores are metabolised for energy. However, a body composition analysis of the author after short term fasting found that most weight-loss was from muscle stores, rather than fat.

Key takeaways:

  1. Strength training is still important when on any form of diet, to maintain muscle mass!

This article “Fasting power: Can going without food really make you healthier? By Caroline Williams” outlines very well, some of the long-term negative effects of fasting that actually “slows” weight loss and reduce long term health. 

The author trials the fasting diet for 5 days and although losses 1kg in the process, only 168g of this was fat and a staggering 584g of this was lean muscle mass, the metabolically active, joint and bone protecting tissue of the body.

This has 2 obvious main issues for long term health:

  • It will be harder to lose weight in the long term – Our resting metabolic rate, the amount of energy we expend at rest is dependant on our organs, the energy required to breakdown food and our lean muscle mass. This only part we can really control and do something about is our lean muscle mass.  When you loss 0.5kg of muscle mass, you will burn less energy doing the same activities you did the week before, such as running, going to the gym and even sleeping.  Your exercise will just not be as effective in expending energy and will take a lot of work to regain the muscle mass you have lost.
  • It reduces your ability to control glucose metabolism – Lean muscle is again the only tissue we have that we control that help regulate our blood glucose for diabetes control. As your muscle mass improves, not only is there more muscle mass to pull glucose from the bloodstream, lowering blood glucose, but the number of sensors on the surface of muscle (GLUT4 receptors) increases, so the muscles become more efficient at doing so, helping combat insulin resistance.

So, if you are serious about managing your weight, a much more effective way of doing so is regular eating, improving your muscle mass and appropriate meal portions for long term results.

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Fasting power: Can going without food really make you healthier? By Caroline Williams

Fasting diets are getting ever more popular, amid promises of weight loss and better health, but does the science stand up? We put the latest one to the test

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