National Fasting February reminds us that our metabolic health underlies many of the diseases that we associate with aging, from diabetes to cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. Regularly switching from burning sugars to burning stored fats can reduce our risk of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and other conditions of aging.
February is a month for transforming new health resolutions into healthy habits and lifestyles. Since 1964, February has been American Heart Month to help raise awareness of preventable risk factors of cardiovascular disease including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Diet heavily influences many of these risk factors. But there is a growing consensus among healthcare professionals that a healthy diet depends not just on what we eat but also when we eat.
National Fasting February celebrates the benefits of intermittent fasting on metabolic health. Practicing intermittent fasting is as simple as changing the timing of your meals. It gives your body at least a 10-12 hour break from metabolizing sugar every night.
Intermittent fasting does not require any change in the content of your diet, but rather merely a shift in the timing of your food and sweetened beverage intake. Regularly refraining from consuming any calories for just 10-12 or more hours can increase levels of brain-fueling ketones. It also:
- improves indicators of heart health
- lowers blood pressure
- reduces triglyceride and cholesterol levels
- promotes weight loss
- reduces inflammation
- improves sensitivity to insulin, a common biomarker used to diagnose diabetes
Science-backed ways to practice fasting for metabolic health include:
- Time-restricted eating: 10-16 hours of overnight fasting every day or several days per week
- Alternate day fasting: Eating fewer than 500 calories every other day
- The 5:2 diet: Two consecutive or non-consecutive days per week of eating fewer than 500 calories
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HOW TO OBSERVE #FastingFeburary
Visit lifeapps.io/fasting-february/ to learn more about how to participate in National Fasting February and to read about the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
- Choose a fasting schedule that works best for you. Practice it all month long. Intermittent fasting is not a fad diet, but rather a lifestyle for metabolic health. If you’ve never fasted before, start with time-restricted eating. This involves fasting for at least 10-12 hours every night, ideally starting in the early evenings. Don’t worry if you can’t make it to 12 hours at first – work up slowly. Throughout the month, you may work your way up to a 16-hour or an occasional 24-hour fast.
- Download the LIFE Fasting Tracker app to track your fasts. Create a fasting Circle, invite family members or join a public LIFE Circle to fast in a supportive social environment.
- Share your experiences with intermittent fasting and post photos of how you break your fasts on social media with the hashtag #NationalFastingFebruary.
NATIONAL FASTING FEBRUARY HISTORY
Intermittent fasting was developed as an alternative to calorie restriction interventions for studies of human aging and chronic disease prevention. Calorie restriction has long been considered by researchers to be a gold standard in prolonging lifespan in many animal species. But calorie restriction, which in humans typically involves eating fewer than 1,200 calories per day, is incredibly difficult for humans to practice. Researchers including Dr. Valter Longo, Dr. Mark Mattson, and Dr. Satchidananda Panda, and others are now finding that intermittent fasting may be just as effective or even more effective than calorie restriction in terms of delaying and preventing diseases of aging.
LifeOmic, the creator of the LIFE Fasting Tracker app, submitted Fasting February in 2019. The Registrar at National Day Calendar proclaimed Fasting February to be observed annually beginning in 2019.
Fasting for 12-16 hours and exercising while fasted are safe practices for most individuals, except for pregnant women and individuals diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. However, you should consult your primary care physician to make sure that you don’t have a health condition for which fasting is contraindicated.
Prolonged fasting or going more than 24-36 hours without calories is the subject of early clinical trials. However, it isn’t necessary to glean the metabolic health benefits of fasting. You should drink plenty of water while fasting. You may need to supplement your water with a blend of electrolytes if you are practicing prolonged fasting. Zero-calorie beverages (unsweetened tea and coffee) will also not break your fast. You can consume artificially sweetened beverages while fasting in a pinch, but your gut microbes can break down some artificial sweeteners, and these sweeteners tend to increase your sweet cravings.
Intermittent fasting will not turn an unhealthy diet into a healthy one. You should try to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables when you aren’t fasting. It’s also best practice to break a fast with a relatively low glycemic index (low carbohydrate) meal to avoid spiking your blood sugar.
Learn more about intermittent fasting safety by reading this FAQ with fasting researcher Dr. Krista Varady, particularly the “Safety” section.
About Life Fasting Tracker
The LIFE Fasting Tracker app was created by LifeOmic, a precision health software company headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. LifeOmic works with healthcare providers and academic institutions, including the Indiana School of Medicine, to power precision medicine and personalized treatments for cancer and other diseases using ultra-secure cloud technologies. LifeOmic’s LIFE apps provide the missing link to patient engagement in precision healthcare.
The LIFE Fasting Tracker app, free to download for both iOS and Android, is the easiest and most social way to fast. Launched in late 2018, the app makes it easy and fun to harness lifestyle changes to improve metabolic health. With the app, you can track your progress on any fasting schedule, see when you start burning fats for fuel, and intuitively log how you are feeling. You can share your fasts and give and receive encouragement within custom Circles of people you care about, from friends to coworkers to healthcare providers. Join hundreds of thousands of users in their journey to better health.