Do you fast—that is, do you give up food periodically? If you don’t, you should probably consider changing your habits.
Why? A variety of researchers have begun studying the health benefits of fasting, and they’ve made some interesting discoveries. When you skip eating for a day or two, your brain seems to respond by adapting new pathways, and also producing beneficial proteins that promote the growth of neurons and the strength of the synaptic connections between them.
The researchers also found that fasting stimulates the production of new nerve cells from stem cells, and may also increase the number of mitochondria (the energy-producing part of cells) in neurons. That raises the neurons’ ability to maintain strong connections with each other, improving learning and memory ability.
Additional studies by researchers at the University of Southern California showed that cycles of prolonged fasting—such as our cave-dwelling ancestors endured between successful hunting expeditions—induced the regeneration of the human immune system. Fasting seems to shift stem cells from a dormant state to a state of renewal, and meanwhile recycles damaged immune cells. The effect is to replenish the human immune system against diseases.
But don’t you get hungry when you don’t eat for a day or two? Some researchers have suggested that you can get most of the health benefits of fasting simply by cutting down your food intake to one-fourth of your normal daily calories for two days a week, while eating normally on the other days. Another possibility that seems to work is to restrict your food intake to between the hours of 11:00 AM and 7:00 PM each day— not eating during the hours outside of that time. Or you can simply not eat one day a week and get the benefits directly.
About the Author: Bob Veres has been a commentator, author and consultant in the financial services industry for more than 20 years. Over his 20-year career in the financial services world, Mr. Veres has worked as editor of Financial Planning magazine; as a contributing editor to the Journal of Financial Planning; as a columnist and editor-at-large of Dow Jones Investment Advisor magazine; and as editor of Morningstar’s advisor web site: MorningstarAdvisor.com.
Mr. Veres has been named one of the most influential people in the financial planning profession by Investment Advisor magazine and Financial Planning magazine, was granted the NAPFA Special Achievement Award by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and most recently the Heart of Financial Planning Distinguished Service Award from the Denver-based Financial Planning Association.