Although various forms of fasting are in vogue, fasting in one form or another has been around for centuries. Fasting has been an integral part of both religious and medical practices since ancient times. Fasting for medical purposes was often suggested by ancient Chinese, Greek, and Roman physicians. Benjamin Franklin once wrote that "The best of all medicines is resting and fasting." While Mark Twain seconded that opinion by writing that, "A little starvation can really do more for the average sick man than can the best medicines and the best doctors. I do not mean a restricted diet; I mean total abstention from food for one or two days." When Twain wrote that he likely couldn't have envisioned the current popularity of fasting. The first modern medical use of fasting occurred in 1914 when doctors used fasting methods to treat patients with type 1 and 2 diabetes. In a 1977 medical journal article, a physician reported on the complete resolution of type-2 diabetes in a woman following just a month of fasting. Even though she regained the weight she lost from fasting, her glucose tolerance remained normal for a year after the month of fasting. More recently, several other doctors have embraced fasting as an effective treatment for type-2 diabetes. That is significant because diabetes is on the rise worldwide and is now in epidemic proportions. Also significant is that the major cause of death in those with type-2 diabetes, the more common type, is cardiovascular disease. My own father had type-2 diabetes and died from congestive heart failure that arose as a complication of the disease.
While various types of fasting exist, the most popular by far is intermittent fasting (IF) and its subtypes, such as time-restricted eating. The latter involves eating means only within a specific time frame, usually an 8-hour time frame. At all other times, you fast and don't consume anything other than non-caloric fluids. Studies with animals showed that eating in this manner prevented weight and body fat gains in the animals, no matter what they ate. There is some evidence that this effect is duplicated in humans, although there is always a limit in how many calories you can consume in relation to your degree of physical activity without gaining body fat. And while time-restricted eating sounds attractive to bodybuilders and athletes, a recent study shows that it's not suitable for anyone wanting to build or retain muscle mass. The study featured 140 overweight and obese men and women, but 100 completed the 12-week study. The subjects were divided into either a control group who ate three structured meals a day or a time-restricted group (TR) group, who were told to eat whatever they wanted from 12 to 8 p.m, then completely abstain from all food intake from 8 p.m to 12 p.m the following day. In other words . . .