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Science of starvation/Fasting therapy. - Termantino

Science of starvation/Fasting therapy. 298

     Starvation or fasting has long been practiced independently among different people and religions worldwide. Fasting is a willing abstinence or curtailment from some or all food or drink for a definite period. It is followed in almost all religions. In the political context, fasting has long been used as a non-violent method of protesting to bring out changes.

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In a physiological context, a person is assumed to be fasting after 8-12 hours from their last meal. Hence, the metabolic state of fasting is achieved after the complete digestion and absorption of a meal. In a fasting state, the blood glucose level drops and remains low throughout the fasting period. I fasting period the first energy source that is depleted is glycogen. Liver glycogen is depleted in the first 18-24 hours of fasting. After that, the energy is derived from protein, amino acid, muscle glycogen and fat stored in the form triglycerides in adipose tissue. In the first phase of fasting, the total glucose use is 150 to 250 grams per day. The brain consumes about 125-150 grams while remaining is consumed by muscle cells, bone marrow cells, peripheral nerve and renal medulla.

As fasting progress, fatty acid metabolism results in the increased production of ketone bodies, which replaces glucose as the primary energy substrate for the brain during prolonged starvation. Today, ketogenic diets are referred by nutritionists to lose weight. Ketogenic diets have also been found to have health benefits like use as a treatment for cognitive impairments, including Alzheimer,s symptoms, prevention and even killing of cancer cells and also reduction in cardiovascular disease risk factors.

A 2008 study carried in Utah found that people who fast on a regular basis lower their risk of contracting the coronary disease. In 2014, a follow-up study found that fasting stimulates metabolic changes and lowers “bad” cholesterol levels, which in turn can reduce the chance of heart disease nearly about 58%. That study also explained a decrease in blood sugar levels among people who fast.

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Short-term fasting has a different metabolic effect compared to prolonged fasting. Many medical complications have also been observed after or before prolonged fasting resulting even in the death of the individual. Although there are some side effects of starvation such as malnutrition, dehydration, decreased resting metabolic rate, constipation and electrolyte imbalance, some physiological effects of fasting are increased insulin sensitivity that results in reduced plasma glucose, reduced damage proteins, lipids and DNA, increased resistance to various types of stress including heat and increased enhanced immune function.

Fasting may be religiously-assigned, but the social and communal traditions that accompany the practice carry just as much benefit. During Ramadan, families sit down to break their fast each night together. They visit relatives’ and friends’ homes for the nightly ritual, known as iftar. The communal aspect of such fasting has been shown to impact the mental health of observers in a positive way. “Engaging in fasting can bring families and social groups closer together,” said psychologist Susan Jones. “This often helps people suffering from depression and loneliness by convincing them that they are not alone.”

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In recent times, it is being considered as a therapeutic tool during chemotherapy treatment of cancer patients. In 2010, Raffaghello from the University of Southern California reported that cancer cells are more prone to death in response to chemotherapy and normal cells are more prone to death in response to chemotherapy and normal cells are protected from the side-effects of chemotherapy after short-term starvation. Hence, starvation differentially protects normal cells but not cancer cells against chemotherapy drugs.  This differential stress response is due to the presence of a mutation in cancer cells.

Short-term starvation induces mitochondrial activity to restrain energy depletion. Discontinuous fasting worms have been reported to increase oxidative and heat stress resistance and extend lifespan by up to 56%. So, short-term starvation could be beneficial for human body.

References:

What Happens To Your Metabolic Processes When You Stop Feeding Your Body-medical daily.com

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