The Increasing Benefits of Fasting for 24 Hours and Beyond

Swing with a View. Image by Artem Beliaikin.

Humans have been fasting since the dawn of man. Sometimes this was out of necessity when food was scarce. However, as research has increasingly shown the many benefits of fasting, this practice has grown in popularity even when food is bountiful. We all deprive ourselves of food daily (like when we sleep), and that does good things within our bodies. But the impacts are even greater when we avoid eating for prolonged durations. So let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of fasting for 24 hours and beyond.



Fasting Benefits

Depriving yourself of food can trigger many positive physical changes within your body. Here is a recap of the most significant benefits that occur due to fasting.

Fasting balances blood sugar levels

During fasting, your body gradually relies more on fat than on carbs for energy. In response, your insulin production decreases. If you have normally high blood sugar, intermittent fasting may help. It has been shown to reduce insulin resistance [1]. Basically, as your body becomes more sensitive to insulin, blood sugar becomes more stable, leading to fewer spikes and crashes.

Fasting can reduce inflammation

If you didn’t already know, chronic inflammation is tied to higher risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis. But these risks may be managed by diet. Research has shown that 1 month of daily 12-hour fasts [2] could be enough to lower levels of inflammatory markers in your body. This could help keep you in better overall health and comfort.

Fasting may promote brain health

Did you know that chronic inflammation is related to a decline in cognitive function [3]? Research indicates that reducing inflammation can improve cognitive brain function. So, related to the point above, if fasting fights inflammation then it also may have a protective effect on the brain.

Fasting could help fight depression

In addition to brain function, fasting may also improve brain “feeling”. What I mean is, fasts have been shown to have an antidepressant effect [4]. This is in part to its ability to make feel-good neurotransmitters (like serotonin and endogenous opioids) more available to your brain. Likewise, fasting and calorie restriction have been shown to relieve negative emotions like tension and anger, and boost feelings of euphoria [5].

Fasting can reduce your cancer risk

Experts are still studying the relationship between fasting and cancer. However, initial results from some animal studies suggest that periodic fasting might have an anticancer effect [6]. Once more is understood, fasting could play a larger role in cancer prevention.

On a related tangent, it should be noted that research indicates that fasting could make cancer treatments like chemotherapy more effective. A key researcher in this area is Dr. Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at USC and lead developer of the Prolon fasting mimicking diet (FMD). While researching the impacts of fasting on longevity, Dr. Longo noticed starved cells would go into a protective state. And further, by inducing cells into this state, he observed that they were less prone to being damaged by chemotherapy. In turn, this allowed the cells (and the patient) to recover more quickly and have better treatment results. So not only may fasting help prevent and fight cancer itself, but it may also help boost the effectiveness of other cancer-fighting treatments.


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Fasting is good for your heart

High cholesterol is a huge risk factor tied to heart disease. Although relatively small, at least one study shows that fasting every other day reduced participants’ levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by 25% [7]. In addition, triglyceride levels dropped 32%. If that is not impressive enough, other long-term findings suggest that those who fast routinely are more than 70 percent less likely to have heart failure than folks who never fast [8].

Fasting encourages longevity

Additional research by Dr. Longo demonstrates that periods of food-abstention help cells repair themselves. This occurs via the process of autophagy, wherein cells “eat” or otherwise recycle or dispose of their unnecessary and damaged components. This process refreshes and strengthens the cells, making them more efficient in their functions. This includes their defense mechanisms, which is why fasting is tied to a lower risk of many diseases.

Recycling

“Auto” means self and “phagy” means eat. So the literal meaning of autophagy is “self-eating.” Through this evolutionary self-preservation mechanism, the body removes the dysfunctional cells and recycles parts of them toward cellular repair; regeneration of newer, healthier cells; and self-regulation back to optimal smooth function.

Practicing periods of fasting cannot guarantee that you live past 100 years, but it certainly does seem to help. As indicated by all of the above, fasting could reduce the risk of several metabolic and cardiovascular conditions [9]. In general, having better overall health and a reduced risk of illness could contribute to a longer life. Further support is lent to this claim via a study looking at rats which found that those who fasted every other day aged more slowly and lived over 80% longer than the control group [10].


Click here to find out about my experience (and weight loss) results after fasting for five days with ProLon FMD

Prolon fasting mimicking diet

Fasting can help you lose weight

The other benefits of fasting are so great, I consider this a “bonus”. By definition, fasting creates a huge calorie deficit since the nutrition intake is little-to-none. Therefore, not eating for even a day can help one lose weight. If you’re not into traditional low calorie diets, fasting every other day [11] may be an effective choice for you.

The great news is a 2015 review [12] concluded that whole-day fasts could help you shed up to 6 percent of your body fat in as little as 12 weeks! However, the catch comes in the way you break your fast… If you go right back to your previous eating and exercise routine, you may regain the weight [13]. Therefore, it is important to change your habits if you wish to keep the weight off.

Fasting Timeline

Per the above, there are many great reasons to fast. However, not all of fasting’s benefits occur at the same time. Therefore, in order to reap the rewards of fasting, you’ll want to be sure you understand the timeline that your biology follows.

Fasting Benefits

As you can see, a number of biological processes start between 4-12 hours after last eating. These are normal for most people that follow a regular eating pattern. (Example: breakfast, lunch, and dinner spread fairly evenly over a 10-12 hour period.) The processes that occur 14-18 hours after eating are often touted by those who perform intermittent fasting. Importantly however, one must recognize that this timeline ‘resets’ whenever you eating anything. This means that many of these benefits are short-lived unless you extend your refrain from food.

It is not too surprising then, that the true “fun” happens when you fast for at least 24 hours. At this point, your body kicks off autophagy and ketogenesis. Not only is your body actively cleaning out and rejuvenating damaged cells, but it is also actively burning body fat as fuel. On top of that, once you fast for four days, your immune system and inflammation response get a huge boost. This is why prolonged fasting for five (or more) days is so beneficial. It maximizes fat-burning, cellular clean-up, and immune response.


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Is it easy to fast for five days?

The old saying goes “nothing good comes for free”. The same can be said for fasting. The positive impacts may be significant, but the process to reach those benefits is not necessarily easy. I might be able to water fast for a day; maybe two at most. But I know my will power would crumble after that. Most people I know would run into the same problem.

Luckily, there are ways to do prolonged fasting without the pain of complete starvation. This is the main driver behind Dr. Longo’s development of the ProLon Fasting-Mimicking Diet. As the name indicates, this 5-day meal plan is meant to mimic a fast. The diet is scientifically-formulated to not trigger certain cell functions but still provide daily nourishment. Basically, it tricks your body into thinking it is fasting for five days even though you’re not starving yourself. As such, you get all the benefits of fasting for 24 hours – and even 72 hours – without the physical and mental hardships that typically come with a 5-day fast. This is great news, because it means you can trigger cellular rejuvenation even while eating!

ProLon can help

Having done it several times, I can attest to ProLon’s efficacy. Not only is the plan easy to follow, but it leaves me feeling refreshed and revitalized afterward. The meal kit also helps improve my relationship with food so I reduce my urges to overeat. And as a bonus, I typically shed 5-8 pounds of body fat during the week of fasting.

Prolon fasting mimicking diet

If you’ve never done and extended fast before but want to try, I highly recommend giving it a shot with ProLon. Even if you have completed multiday fasts previously, I encourage you to take a look at the FMD meal plan. It may make your next fast easier. While not exactly filling (which is the point!), the plant-based meals keep you fueled so you can function during the week. And they are actually pretty tasty, too! Click here to check out the foods you’ll get to enjoy, as well as their ingredients.

In conclusion, we can see there are many good reasons to fast. The benefits of fasting for 24 hours are great, but they get even better after 72 hours. However, we also recognize that five days of starvation may be a tall order for most people. So we’re thankful for the research done by Dr. Longo and team, as well as the effectiveness and availability of ProLon.

If you’ve tried ProLon or other extended fasts, we’d love to hear about your experience and results. Or if you are curious and have questions, we’d love to hear from you, too. Please drop your comments below!


ProLon’s 5-Day Fasting-Mimicking Diet
is scientifically-formulated to promote cellular rejuvenation and increase your longevity.

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References:

[1] Barnosky, et al. (2014, June 12). Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings. Translational Research.
[2] Aksungar, et al. (2007, April). Interleukin-6, C-Reactive Protein and Biochemical Parameters during Prolonged Intermittent Fasting. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.
[3] Chronic inflammation may put your brain at risk. Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, May 01)
[4] Redman, et al. (2018, April 18). Effect of Caloric Restriction in Non-Obese Humans on Physiological, Psychological and Behavioral Outcomes. National Center for Biotechnology Information.

[5] Hussin, et al. (2013, May 17). Efficacy of Fasting and Calorie Restriction (FCR) on mood and depression among ageing men. Springer Link.
[6] Nencioni, et al. (2018, Nov). Fasting and cancer: molecular mechanisms and clinical application. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
[7] Bhutani, et al. (2012, Sep 06). Improvements in Coronary Heart Disease Risk Indicators by Alternate-Day Fasting Involve Adipose Tissue Modulations. Obesity – A Research Journal.
[8] Bartholomew, et al. (2019, Nov 11). Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle and Incidence of Heart Failure and Myocardial Infarction in Cardiac Catheterization Patients. Circulation.

[9] Anton, et al. (2017, Oct 31). Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting. Obesity – A Research Journal.
[10] Goodrick, et al. (1982) Effects of Intermittent Feeding Upon Growth and Life Span in Rats. Gerontology.
[11] Trepanowski, et al. (2017, July). Effect of Alternate-Day Fasting on Weight Loss, Weight Maintenance, and Cardioprotection Among Metabolically Healthy Obese Adults. JAMA Internal Medicine.
[12] Tinsley, GM; La Bounty, TM. (2015, Sep 15). Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutrition Reviews.
[13] Welton, et al. (2020, Feb). Intermittent fasting and weight loss. Journal of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.


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Dave Hughes

Editor and Contributing Author at Kaldzar

Certified Biologist and Data Scientist
Constantly curious; Curiously compassionate
.

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