Fasting: weight loss is just a part of it

A recent article in The Telegraph (UK) has reported scientific research into the medical benefits of fasting. The piece, written by journalist Liz Hunt, interviews Francoise Wilhelmi de Toledo, a medical director at the Buchinger Wilhelmi Clinic in Germany and an authority figure on therapeutic fasting.

Dr Wilhelmi de Toledo inspired French journalist and documentary maker Sylvia Gilman to make a documentary, The Science of Fasting, which explored the history of fasting over more than 50 years. It looked at the work of doctors and scientists from many countries including Germany, Russia and California which has shown that fasting goes way beyond losing weight.

In 2012, Michael Mosley from BBC Two’s Horizon conducted a personal investigation into fasting and how it can help us “live longer, look younger and lose weight”. You may be familiar with a new successful diet called 5:2, which spawned from the huge media coverage of the documentary. 5:2, or the Fast Diet, advises people to fast for 2 days a week and enjoy a healthy diet for the remaining 5.

The article, published on 15 April 2015, states that fasting “has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce excess fat and glucose in the blood, modulate the immune system, increase the effect of the mood and sleep regulating neuro-transmitter serotonin, promote protein repair, boost the growth of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut and reduce inflammation.”

Hunt points out that “fasting has been likened to a ‘reset button’ that returns the human body to its – healthy – factory settings.” This makes sense; after years of living in the modern world and consuming an abundance of unnatural and chemically enhanced foods, our bodies need to – and can – return to how they were when our ancient ancestors survived lack periods of food eg. deep winters.

A focal point of the article is that the incredible human body has kept this ability to fast and live on a ketogenic diet (when the body uses energy from fat supplies instead of ingested food). And that we can still fast in the modern day, but given we rarely experience a lack of food in the Western world, we don’t utilise this ability or realise its benefits.

It also references a study by USC’s Professor Longo which concluded that three days of fasting can boost the body to produce new white blood cells and rejuvenate the immune system; and other research which shows that fasting provides the body means to endure the toxicity of chemotherapy and that cancer cells die more rapidly.

Dr Wilhelmi de Toledo did her first fast at age 17 during which she felt ‘’buoyant, sometimes euphoric’’. She now fast twice a year. Her husband was diagnosed permanently disabled in 1917 after he contracted rheumatic fever. However his joints were restored after a 19-day water fast.

Hunt’s interview with Dr Wilhelmi de Toledo points out the teaching of fasters to return home to an improved diet and lifestyle, not their previous eating regime, is crucial to maintaining the long term benefits of a fast. This, too, is part of our unique detox programs here in Thailand.

Enjoy the full article here