Fasting is an interesting concept which, if utilised correctly, can help the body. Taken to extremes, it can harm our health. However, going on a mini-fast every so often could help you live longer and reduce your chances of developing a chronic disease, according to research.
Apparently, the occasional mini-fast could have the same health benefits as fasting every day – which we certainly wouldn’t want to do. Occasional fasting is usually where a meal is missed (this would be planned, not missed by accident) or you focus on eating less throughout the day, for one day. According to research at the University of Florida, this can promote longevity and protect our cells.
The ‘little but often’ approach to fasting seems to trigger small stress responses in the body, which build protective pathways and bolster the immune system. Intermittent fasting also lowers insulin levels, which could have an anti-diabetic effect as an additional benefit.
To test the benefits of a mini-fast, the researchers recruited 24 adults, whose diets switched from eating just 25 per cent of their daily calories on one day to eating 75 per cent more than their usual daily intake the next day. For the average male, this means eating 650 calories on the ‘fast’ day and then 4,550 calories on the ‘feast’ day (Rejuvenation Res., 2014).
Sufferers of ME (myalgic encephalopathy) and CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) still have a difficult time explaining to medics what their problem is. It should be explained that there are a number of different names for what is an illness of uncertain cause affecting many thousands of people. Currently it is estimated that some 250,000 people in the UK alone are affected by this illness.
All types of people, of all ages, are affected. Severe and debilitating fatigue, painful muscles and joints, disordered sleep, gastric disturbances, poor memory and concentration are commonplace. In many cases, onset is linked to a viral infection. Other triggers may include an operation or an accident, although some people experience a slow, insidious onset.
However, a major new study has confirmed that it is not a psychological issue, but has biological causes. The disorder has stages, produces biomarkers in the blood and could be the result of an infection (such as Epstein-Barr virus), causing the immune system to go into overdrive for some time.
Going on a mini-fast every so often could help you live longer and reduce your chances of developing a chronic disease Researchers from a team at Columbia University took blood samples from 298 ME/CFS patients and compared them with samples taken from 348 healthy people.
They discovered different immune ‘signatures’ in the blood of chronic fatigue sufferers of less than three years’ duration, compared with those in healthy people and those suffering from ME for longer. Those who had ME for less than three years had high levels of immune related molecules which appear in response to viral and bacterial infections.
Ultimately, the researchers believe that an ME sufferer has an immune system which is on constant ‘high alert’. This eventually causes fatigue, muscle pain, an inability to concentrate and headaches, which are all typical symptoms of ME (Science Advances, 2015)
A new review of homeopathy has proved what many people have known all along – that it works. Homeopathy is generally dismissed as nothing more than a placebo. The benefits are ‘all in the mind’ of the patient and not in the remedy.
However, this new review has found that homoeopathic remedies are almost twice as effective as a placebo. People given a homeopathic remedy are, on average, 1.98 times more likely to improve, compared with those given a placebo or a dummy pill. The key factor is that the participants were given individualised remedies (which is what homeopathy is all about). This would have been the case if these people had been prescribed a remedy by a homeopath after a consultation.
Earlier studies, which had found no bene-fit over a placebo, had evaluated the effectiveness of general homeopathic remedies such as Arnica, for muscle pain, and Oscillococcinum, for flu symptoms.
In this new review and analysis, Robert Mathie from the British Homeopathic Association, together with an international team of other researchers, looked at 32 trials covering 24 medical conditions.
Of these, 22 were included in the pooled analysis and three trials, deemed to have the most ‘reliable evidence’, resulted in the 1.98 risk on sensitivity analysis (Systematic Reviews, 2014).
Finally, just a quick fact about exercise. Little and often is a better way to exercise than following guidelines of 150 minutes of exercise a week. Researchers say this is unrealistic. Instead, people who do short periods of walking or just 20 minutes of vigorous activity a month will still reduce their risk of premature death compared with those who take no exercise at all.
The key is to make sure you find time to do something every day.