NO FOOD touches the lips of some CEOs in Silicon Valley for up to 9 days! Yes. That’s right. No food for 9 days. They do it voluntarily. All the while, their faces are beaming with smiles! They love doing it!  Are these people nutty or what?

[WARNING: IF YOU DO THIS, ONLY DO IT UNDER PROPER MEDICAL SUPERVISION AND WITH PROPER MEDICAL CONSULTATION!!]

Whether short-term, or interval, or longer time, (like 9 days), these people willingly, and encouragingly, practise a major part of what these bad boys and bad gals call, “BIO-HACKING”. The fasting component of bio-hacking.

Because of the growing interest, and because of all the  awareness that with some imagination, fasting could be monetised, an historical concept, fasting has been evolving into an industry now labelled “Bio-Hacking”. Fasting, its proponents claim, does amazing, positive, healthful things to the body. To help people get into that fasting state, stay there, emerge, and partially emulate it outside of the deeper states of it, companies have sprung up to teach the concept, measure bodily processes and reactions, nourish the body while in the state and afterwards. Despite the billions of dollars that are beginning to flow into the deep pockets of clever entrepreneurs, one needs no fancy equipment or special meals to SELF-BIO-HACK. All you have to do….UNDER MEDICAL SUPERVISION, PLEASE!!…is adopt a state of LIQUID FASTING.  [Prior to writing this Nugget, I documented my experience at this webpage:  “H2O Fast”. ]

Liquid fasts are common among some of those Silicon Valley fasters.  One executive will eat no foods and will only drink black coffee, tea, or water for the duration of his fast which may run for 4 consecutive days. Other executives go in cycles of fasting and normal nourishment. In a recent article,  in the GUARDIAN, Olivia Solon describes one of her interviewees as using a period of fasting followed by return to normal meals, followed by fasting, a procedure they term “INTERVAL FASTING”.  She mentioned that her subject interval fasted from 2 to 8 days, fasting for 2 to 8 days, returning to normal schedules for 2 to 8 days, …and so on. In 8 months, her subject lost about 90 pounds.

It’s not just about weight loss, though.

Some are doing it to achieve a longer lifespan.

It is well known among qualified nutritionists, and a growing number of medical professionals, though most medical doctors are poorly trained in the field of ideal nutritional practises, that the American diet is among the most DANGEROUS. There is almost no debate that the call to stuff ourselves with protein has long passed the peak of nutritional optimisation and is now causing national health to descend like a rocket that has reached the apex of its trajectory and is on its downward parabolic arc. It would be no surprise to some, that scientists are suggesting that eating a lot less, and that eating a lot less of the typical American diet, would short-circuit that downward death arc.

In other words, some scientists think that eating less of the American diet could help people live longer.  That was the explanation put forward by researchers by Carlson and Hoelzel back in 1945 after observing longer life spans because of sever-calorie-restricted diets and especially fasting in their animal experiments and from their own personal observations of having practised that very thing.See End Note 1

Other researchers also observed that calorie restriction and fasting contributed to their study animals living longer, healthier lives.

That’s NOT new information. Realisation of devastating consequences from long-term diets heavy in proteins extends all the way to World War One.

A story about a brilliant doctor, Dr. Mikkel Hindhede, during WW1 is relayed by Dr. John McDougall in one of his newsletters. Dr. Hindhede was in charge of the nation’s nutrition and was an advisor to the Danish government. While the British blockade in the North Sea was causing hundreds of thousands of  Germans to starve to death, the danish government acted on Dr. Hindhede’s advice to switch the diet of Danes from an abundance of meat to starchy grains and vegetables. Denmark’s population of 3 million people, at that time, for the years 1917 to 1918 enjoyed a reduction in death rates of 34%. It was a given that Dr. Hindehede concluded, (as was relayed by Dr. John McDougall), “palatable meat dishes, is one of the most common causes of disease.” See End Note 2

The theme of calorie restriction and fasting both have relatively long histories and, historically and currently, methods are believed to contribute to optimising health and living longer.

Speaking of the growing interest in the current trend of fasting, the following statement was attributed to Mark Mattson, a neurosciences professor at Johns Hopkins University, and chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging (NIA): “Health benefits in mice that eat only every other day, [this was described above as “interval fasting”],  are similar to those for mice that eat a calorie restricted diet—they live 30 percent longer…” See End Note 3

It’s not all about living longer, though that is would certainly be of great benefit. People in Silicon Valley are also doing it to sharpen their brains!

Some participants claim that fasting helps to focus and improve mental clarity. Interesting that here, once again, scientists discovered size does matter.

“…female rats on caloric-restricted diets showed a considerably greater increase in hippocampal weight than the males.”  See End Note 4   Let’s put this in layperson terms: the bigger the hippo, the better the memory.  [Hippocampus is an important component of the brain and plays a critical role for memory].   That was the conclusion scientists arrived at after their female study rats with a larger hippocampus, blazed through mazes much better than their male counterparts.

In short, proper fasting seems to offer many benefits and many advantages when compared to the typical American diet. Scientists have been closely examining the mechanisms involved in fasting.

Fasting, [provided your doctor clears the way based on your body weight, medications and medical therapies!], drives the body into a safe and healthy state of ketosis,  and forces the body to stay there for a while.

What’s ketosis?

I’d describe it this way: that bodily state during which the body burns body fat in the absence of stored glucose.

When you eat, the body uses your insulin to extract energy, carbohydrates,  from the meal or beverage and converts that energy into glucose. That blood born glucose is then stored in your liver. If you consume too much, more than what the body needs, then your body turns it to fat and stuffs it everywhere: your belly, butt, arms, ARTERY WALLS, and your liver–hence your doctor may tell you that you have a “fatty” liver. Because of fasting, if there is no energy is coming into the body, then insulin has nothing to convert into glucose and eventually your liver will deplete the glucose remaining in the liver.  Yet, the body needs that glucose to energise itself. What’s a body to do? At that point, the brain commands the body to hunt stored fat and extract it from wherever it is hiding and convert that fat into ketone bodies. The body then ravages ketone bodies which are burned up for fuel in the same manner that glucose would have been. The body doesn’t care. It says, “Give me glucose or give me ketone bodies, but give me something!!”

Once the deposited fat gets converted into ketone bodies the magic of weight loss happens almost while you are looking the mirror, aka, you get skinnier, really quickly!

When it runs out of fat, if I understand Dr. Arnold Fung correctly, the body continues to eat whatever is NOT MUSCLE, such as excessive skin cells, difficult to eliminate foreign invaders, and so on. If this notion is correct, there may be great promise for treatments of cancer after scientists learn much more about the mechanisms of fasting and the behaviour of cancer.

Is fasting a fad, (bio-hacking)?

I don’t think so. Fads disappear rather quickly. Fasting has been around a long time. It can be can be traced back tens of thousands of years. Historically, fasting can be found in all major religions and ideologies.  Great philosophers like Socrates and Plato. Great religious and ideological leaders, like Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammad. And people are STILL DOING IT.

You likely heard of Ramadan? That’s when Muslims fast for the 9th month of the Islamic calendar.  So, fasting is not a new concept.

What is new about fasting is that it is going mainstream, voluntarily. Starting where? California, of course.

From the financial perspective, an industry is growing up around the practices and science of fasting. A growing number of companies are diving into this opportunity. Some companies are springing up to teach people how to fast and how to measure the body’s statistics, (monitoring), during fasting. Other companies are making equipment to facilitate the measurements; others, vitamins, food, coffee, beverages, and other products.

Another reason this is not going to be just a fad is the important role it plays within the heavily financed field of study: LIFE EXTENSION.

Life extension research has been going on for quite some time. And it likely will continue to go on for quite some time. Now it has a growing interest from the masses.

FASTING METHODOLOY EXPLAINED:

It is pretty uncomplicated process and just about anyone can do it, if their doctor says so. It’s simply depriving the body of all foods and beverages, for a fixed period of time. On a “water-only” fast, the strictest form of fasting, a person would only drink plenty of water, (a reasonable amount), while abstaining from all other consumption. Some people drink water, black water, and plain tea. The proviso is whatever beverage should have no calories and no carbohydrates during fasting.

The length of time fasting can be whatever you want it to be following your last consumption of a meal or a beverage: 12 hours, 36, 48, days, weeks. The longer the period of fasting the more urgent it is to have cleared the fast with your doctor BEFORE you jump in. I’d also recommend you spend at least a few hours studying the concept on the web by reading and viewing videos of DOCTORS successfully practising it.

I must emphasise this: before fasting, get medical clearance, study the concept, approach it with caution.

Yet, don’t let all my warnings frighten you. Likely it has not yet occurred to you that you likely have already test driven the concept of fasting.

Sure. If you ever went to the hospital or medical clinic for tests or operations, likely you have been told to fast by avoiding food and drinks from 8 pm, or from midnight, as preparation for imaging or an operation.

Common sense tells us that unless there is some major medical concern, you may not even want to attempt those extremely long fasts. At H2O Fast, on this website, I tried it for 5 days. It’s pretty cool stuff. Remember, do it only after medical consultation since it may affect your medications, your current therapy, or even be a shock to your body. Every person is truly different when it comes to fasting. For example, you may already be too skinny to even attempt it.

MY EXPERIMENT.

I experimented with my first ever, extended, water fast.  It was a great experience If you wish to read my experience, and that of a friend, click here to go to my web page that I will update periodically.  I plan to do this again from time to time. My moniker there is Socrato. 

YOUR CONCERNS:

If you have certain diseases, a fast may not be right for you. Or, if you are, for example, a body mass index, (BMI),  of approximately 16, or less, you may not have enough fat to lose and, instead, may lose important muscle mass. By the way, medical experts, such as Dr. Arnold Fung, who is an expert on fasting, assures us that fasting does not consume muscle mass after approximately 36 hours of fasting. Between 24 and 36 hours, he says, while the body is transitioning from glucose energy to ketone energy, there is a small amount of muscle that is converted to energy to fuel the body.

A REVIEW OF THE BENEFITS:

Here’s another conclusion from a study about fasting that confirms some of the benefits of other studies but also adds a few more: “…greater insulin sensitivity, and reduced levels of blood pressure, body fat, IGF-I, insulin, glucose, atherogenic lipids and inflammation. Fasting regimens can ameliorate disease processes and improve functional outcome in animal models of disorders that include myocardial infarction, diabetes, stroke, AD and PD.” See End Note 5

WHAT ABOUT FLABBY LOOSE SKIN HANGING FROM ARMS, NECK, LEGS?!:

No worries. Very obese people, who endure the longer  MEDICALLY-SUPERVISED  water-only, fasting do burn fat the way a match ignites gasoline. BAM!  That would make one think that all the extra skin that held the massive amount of fat in place is going to be flapping in the wind like a kit in a storm. Not so, according to Dr. Fung. Per Dr Fung, there should be no loose, flappy, embarrassing skin hanging down from arms and other body parts.

FASTING IS COOL. BUT ARE KETO DIETS ALSO A COOL? MAYBE NOT: 

If you want to get your body into a state of ketosis, do it by doing a medically-supervised fast and NOT by stuffing your face with fat, drinking cream-laden coffee, sucking down cheese,  and overly indulging in animal proteins which, by their nature are also very high in fat.

If you care to learn more about the dangers of a keto-diet, (this is not the same as fasting), read my recent post, “Proof Keto-Diets May Be Dangerous”. 

YOU ARE STILL A SOCIAL ANIMAL. ACT LIKE ONE:

Though all this stuff about bio-hacking and fasting is pretty neat stuff, remember that you have to mix with people and have to be social and sociable. Going to dinner parties and refusing all beverages and foods, while explaining, “Because I am fasting…”, or “Because I am on a Keto-Diet”, becomes rather snobbish. Don’t be a snob. Plan your fasting, or adopt a fasting regimen, that fits with your family, friends, business contacts, and social and business demands and your active lifestyle.

Our time on this planet is terribly short. Taste is one of the great enjoyments. Apply lots of common sense to your choices and timing.

 


END NOTE

  1. “Apparent Prolongation of the Life Span of Rats by Intermittent Fasting”, by Carlson, Hoelzel, Univwrsity of Chicago. Oct. 4, 1945.
  2. “Lessons from the Past, Directions for the Future: The WWI Starch Solution for Denmark”, By Dr. John McDougall. McDougall Newsletter, June 2012.
  3. “Eat Less, Live Longer? The Quest to Learn Why Slashing Calories Extends Life”, By Cheryl Simon Silver
    July 9, 2004.  Genome News Network.
  4. “Conserved and Differential Effects of Dietary Energy Intake on the Hippocampal Transcriptomes of Females and Males”, By Martin, Pearson, Brenneman, Golden, Keselman, Iyun, Carlson, Egan, Becker, Wood III, Prabhu, de Cabo, Maudsley, Mattson. Published: June 11, 2008.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0002398  Plos.one
  5. “Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications”, By Valter D. Longo and Mark P. Mattson. Published online at National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine.  Study appeared in Cell Metab. 2014 Feb 4; 19(2): 181–192.