Though research is underway but health experts are hopeful that intermittent fasting can be an effective approach for weight control, blood pressure control, longevity, sharper mind and could prevent and even reverse many diseases.
Intermittent fasting refers to an eating plan that alternates between fasting and eating on a regular basis.
Researchers argue that our bodies have evolved to survive without food for many hours or even several days. During fasting the body exhausts its sugar stores and starts burning fats. As one takes a meal, carbohydrates in the food are broken down into glucose which is then absorbed into blood stream and transported to various organs as the major energy source or fuel. Excess glucose is stored for later use in the liver and adipose tissue (fatty tissue) in the form of glycogen (bigger molecules of glucose) and fats. During fasting state or during periods between meals glycogen is converted back to glucose in the liver; so to provide the body with energy it needs to function. When the glycogen reserves in the liver are consumed or depleted, the body shifts towards consuming fat stores in the adipose tissues for generation of energy; and fats are broken down to provide with energy to carry on with metabolic processes. Thus during periods of prolonged fasting the body burns fats for energy requirements and loses extra fats. This practice could provide with many health benefits.
With intermittent fasting one may allow himself to eat only during a specific time or fasting for some hours. The goal is to systematically starve the body long enough to trigger fat burning.
However, fasting is not recommended for everyone. One should take advise with health practitioner if intends to practice intermittent fasting. Experts suggest that it may not be suitable for people such as:
*Pregnant and breast feeding women
*People with some medical condition e.g. diabetes
*Children and teens under age 18
*People with history of eating disorders
Furthermore, for intermittent fasting to be safe and effective one must consume a balanced and nutritious diet and keep himself well hydrated.
Several studies conducted through animal model(a non-human species used in medical research as it can mimic aspects of a disease found in human), have shown that intermittent fasting and caloric restriction extend life expectancy and reduce inflammation and can provide with many other health benefits.
Health experts hypothesized that intermittent prolonged fasting as practiced during the month of Ramadan (RIF) could positively affect the inflammatory state of the body.
[During the month of Ramadan which is the ninth month of Islamic calendar, healthy Muslims practice daily fasting from dawn until sunset; which requires abstinence from food and drink.]
As this hypothesis needed to be investigated through scientific methodology; thus scientists designed studies to investigate the impact of RIF on selected inflammatory cytokines and immune biomarkers in healthy subjects.
[Proinflammatory cytokines are signaling molecules that are secreted by immune cells or white blood cells and other cell types that promote inflammation. Inflammation is biological response of the body tissues to harmful stimuli such as physical injury, infections, exposure to toxins, exposure to irritants or radiation etc. It is a protective response. However, excessive and prolonged inflammation can be harmful.]
To conduct the studies scientists recruited fifty (21 men and 29 women) healthy volunteers who practiced Ramadan fasting; to investigate levels of circulating proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin [IL]-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor α), immune cells i.e. different kinds of white blood cells (total leukocytes, monocytes, granulocytes, and lymphocytes), and anthropometric assessments (scientific study of the measurements and proportions of the human body) and dietary assessments.
Moreover the studies were conducted 1 week before Ramadan fasting, at the end of the third week of Ramadan, and 1 month after the cessation of Ramadan month.
Through the studies researchers observed that the proinflammatory cytokines, systolic and diastolic blood pressures, body weight; and body fat percentage were found to be significantly lower during Ramadan when compared with before Ramadan or after the cessation of Ramadan fasting. Furthermore, immune cells significantly decreased during Ramadan but still remained within reference ranges.
According to the researchers, the results of the studies indicate that RIF attenuates or reduces inflammatory status of the body by suppressing proinflammatory cytokine expression and by decreasing body fat and circulating levels of leukocytes (white blood cells).
Intermittent fasting during Ramadan attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells in healthy subjects