Intermittent fasting involves alternating 24 hour periods of fasting with periods of eating normally. Fast days typically involve either consuming water only, or significant calorie restriction. There are two primary methods of intermittent fasting. One method involves fasting completely, consuming nothing except water for 24-hours, on one or two non-consecutive days a week. The most common method is the 5:2 diet approach. This involves consuming only 500 calories for women, or 600 calories for men calories per day, on two non-consecutive days per week. There is no restriction on food intake for the remaining days of the week. But the leading world authority on fasting, Professor Valter Longo, has always maintained that intermittent fasting does not show major positive effects and could have more side effects compared with periodic fasting for 5 consecutive days.
Traditional periodic fasting involves consuming nothing but water for a period of several days. Leading experts in the field believe that in order to experience the full range of health benefits, prolonged fasts should be carried out for more than three to four days. Prolonged fasting has been shown to induce autophagy – a process that helps to maintain healthy cellular function. During autophagy cells repair, regenerate and rid themselves of debris. Prolonged fasts also promote stem cell generation.
Water only fasts induce ketosis during which the body switches over from using glucose (from carbohydrates) as a primary energy source, to burning stored body fat. This can be a very effective way to reduce excess body fat and reduce risk factors associated with carrying excess weight.
The downside of water only fasts is that it is difficult to fit into a daily lifestyle and there are potential contraindications with medical conditions such as diabetes and heart conditions. Fasting for long periods of time carries the risk of low blood sugar and fainting. It’s not uncommon to experience side effects such as headaches. Extended water only fasts should be carried out under expert supervision.
ProLon, the fast mimicking diet, developed at the University of Southern California safely mimics a water only periodic fast, but without the side effects, tricking the body into thinking it’s in a fasting state, while still eating nutritious plant based food for just five days.
“While our body is busy digesting and metabolising food, it is less focused on cellular regeneration and repair. Fasting induces processes such as cell detoxification and stem cell generation. It’s like a rejuvenating mini break for the body!” explains Nutritionist Kim Pearson. “Amino acids in protein trigger nutrient sensing pathways that alert the body to the fact we have eaten. By temporarily reducing protein with a specific combination of plant based ingredients, your body goes into a fasted state. The good news is that, compared with water only fasting, you still get to eat. Your body receives vital nutrients and it’s safer, with fewer side effects such as tiredness.” Kim adds.
Many of the previously reported positive effects of fasting on diabetes and other metabolic diseases are based on periodic fasting, including Fasting Mimicking Diets, and not on intermittent fasting. A number of these studies were carried our by Professor Longo and his team at the Longevity Institute, USC. The team found that longer fasts induce beneficial systemic reactions in the body compared with intermittent ‘yoyo fasting’ which do not. Longo argues that intermittent fasting is not true fasting.
Clinical studies on 3 Prolon cycles, five days a month, show a spike in circulating stem sells that lead to delayed aging by promoting regeneration in multiple systems. Body weight, BMI, total body fat, trunk fat, waist circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin‐like growth factor 1 (IGF‐1), C-Reactive Protein (a marker of inflammation) were significantly reduced, particularly in participants at risk for diseases, while relative lean body mass (muscle and bone mass) was increased. Low levels of IGF-1 are associated with a lower risk of cancer and diabetes. No serious adverse effects were reported.
ProLon® meals come in five small boxes (one for each day) and costs £225 at www.prolon.co.uk