Annchen Weidemann | Dietician Western Cape

The Benefits Of Fasting

Annchen Weidemann, Dietician, Western Cape

November 29 2017

Some of my articles on fasting below:

Dear Friends –

To all my colleagues and patients, I wish you a good end to 2017. I am excited to share some new information with you. As the New Year draws in, some of you might be planning to shed a few kilos after the indulgences of holiday and the festive season. As a colleague, Mark Sisson, puts it so well “when a person has had too much to eat, fasting is the smartest thing he could do”. Maybe you have vaguely heard of the concept of fasting (note – this doesn’t mean starvation!), with some good and some not so good comments about it.

The fact of the matter is – the outcome of proper and sensible fasting holds very promising results, which are well documented in recent literature. Also written about in scientific journals, is the question about meal frequency. Although only proven in animals, the fewer the meals per day, the longer the lifespan and overall health of laboratory animals. A study in 2007, looking at normal weight subjects and the effect of fewer meals per day on body composition, found that body fat reduced and weight decreased in subjects eating all their daily calories in one meal per day.

Since overeating is a major cause for the epidemic of obesity world-wide, different types of fasting has been examined in people. It is worth-while to note that weight alone, as measured by the bathroom scale is a weak indicator of body composition, and more research is done using advanced equipment to measure body fat, lean body muscle and the locations of these tissues. This is important, as the accumulation of fat around the midline holds serious health dangers, and exercise can elevate weight through building of lean muscle. Through reliable measurement of body composition, the transition to a leaner body with more muscle can be assessed easily by this non-invasive method. For those of you interested in my advanced body composition monitor, and the information that is generated by a measurement, go to my website and click on body composition.

The concept of fasting seems helpful with not only weight loss, but also maintenance of lost weight. We all know its one thing to lose weight, but quite another to keep it off! Fasting on an intermittent basis (either alternate days or 1 – 3 random days per week) seems to yield the best compliance in comparison to being on “diet” permanently. Because of the difficulty in a freeliving set-up to estimate energy intake, intermittent or alternate-day fasting my prove to be a less complicated method than permanent “dieting”.

So whatever you want to call the fasting protocol, it has been shown to work well for weight loss and weight maintenance, and also improvement in overall health. Bearing in mind that fasting does not mean starvation, but merely a cut-back in calorie consumption for a few days or intermittent days, positive changes have been shown in metabolism. The secretion of growth hormone increases during a fast, and because fat is broken down, fasting levels of insulin are reduced. Some exciting evidence exists that fasting might well be the first dietary intervention that can help reverse insulin resistance, if done under careful supervision of an experienced Dietician.

Also, fasting requires certain time lapses where NO food of any kind is eaten, except for water drinking. Our bodies need a complete break from all eating-hormone secretions, so don’t think about sucking on peppermints of chewing on popcorn. The fasting time means just that. FASTING. The good news about a fasting regime is that on the non-fasting days, you can eat your normal intake. Studies have also shown that fasting helps to normalise appetite, so that people seem less likely to overeat on “normal” days when a fasting lifestyle is followed. So in all, fasting seems to be an effective way to lose body fat while retaining lean body mass and muscle. Fasting is not “required” for primal weight loss, but compliance with such a regime has been shown to be high, and it is well backed up by science.

I will highlight some more benefits of fasting, but please don’t try to starve yourself without professional help for a fasting regime, and explanation of the how-to’s and what-not-to’s. I would like to give you a brief overview of the most successful therapeutic fast documented to date: In 1965, an obese Scotsman aged 27, weighing 456 pounds (207.2 kg) presented himself to the Department of Medicine in Dundee, Scotland with a problem: he had to lose weight. An offhand recommendation was maybe not to eat for a few days, but the Scotsman took it seriously, and under medical supervision, taking vitamin and electrolyte supplements, he fasted for 382 days, drinking only water. He lost 276 pounds (125 kg) reaching his target weight of 180 pounds (82kg) and maintaining the bulk of his weight loss.

Over the next 5 years he gained 16 pounds (7.2kg), but remained in excellent health. An article published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal in March 1973, presents detailed documentation of his metabolic progress throughout his fast.

PS. I couldn’t find information as to whether he is still alive, and if not, what he died from….Although the concept of fasting for health is still in its infancy, its promising outcomes have made us sit up and listen.

Until next time,


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