I’ve mentioned fasting before — mostly as a quick, easy, cheap form of detox.
But a lot of new research has emerged recently — with some striking conclusions that are pretty hard to ignore. And altogether, these findings suggest that fasting achieves a whole lot more than just routine detoxification.
In fact, this no-frills strategy could be the simplest secret yet to outsmarting a long list of modern health crises.
You set the schedule… your body does the rest
First, let’s get some definitions out of the way.
Intermittent fasting (IF), as you’ll commonly see it referred to, is fasting for 24 to 48 hours on consecutive or alternating days. And it can work in a number of ways.
Usually, it simply involves alternating days of “normal” calorie intake with days of severe caloric restriction. (Fewer than 600 calories for men, and fewer than 500 calories for women.) But it can also take the form of designated eating “windows” in your day — usually restricted to four to eight hours during which you have your meals.
A newer iteration of the IF strategy relies on a 5:2 approach, where any two days in a single week are fasting days. But whichever strategy you choose, it’s the same basic idea that’s always been around.
In fact, many of my patients would recognize this as a technique I recommend to people who are stuck at a certain weight or who have “plateaued.” (It’s also a technique I have been using for 20 years now.)
But if you’ll pardon the pun, fasting has weightier applications, too.
A drug-free foil for fatty liver disease and diabetes
Research indicates that IF is at least as effective (if not more so) than less severe, but continuous calorie restriction when it comes to a whole host of health markers.1
Like inflammation, for example. Or circulating glucose, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. Most studies show that IF can positively affect all of these factors… all while boosting your metabolism and cutting oxidative stress.
And according to the very latest research IF may be able to completely transform your health.
This past summer brought a flood of new studies on fasting — including some very interesting findings on a subject I’ve been warning you about for years: fatty liver.
According to research by a team of German scientists, short periods of restricted calorie intake change the genetic activity of liver cells. More specifically, it activates a gene linked to the production of a protein called GADD45β.
GADD45β is responsible for repairing damaged DNA. Which might be one explanation for why fasting is emerging as an all-natural anti-aging solution. But as it turns out, this molecule also has a hand in regulating your liver’s fatty acid absorption.
In laboratory studies, mice without the gene were more prone to fatty liver disease. But when the scientists restored this protein, it normalized the liver’s fat levels and corrected sugar metabolism.
Similarly, low GADD45β levels in humans correlate to higher levels of both blood sugar and liver fat. But these researchers concluded that fasting stresses liver cells just enough to trigger the release of GADD45β — generating higher levels as hunger increases.2
And considering the fact that fatty liver now affects nearly a third of the Western population, I’d say that’s a pretty big deal.
Intermittent fasting has already built a reputation for its ability to fight high blood sugar and heart disease. So I’m not surprised researchers are discovering potential benefits against fatty liver, too.
In fact, researchers at the University of Aukland also announced that they’re launching a new trial to see whether combining fasting with probiotics offers even more powerful diabetes prevention.3 (And you can bet I’ll be reporting back on the results of that study when they’re available.)
New hope against MS and cancer
The role of fasting in metabolic health is well-established by now. But these next two discoveries are taking the conversation in a much different — and very promising — new direction.
For starters, a recent lab study out of the University of Southern California showed that fasting may be able to reduce inflammation and release cortisone that kills autoimmune cells, making way for new, healthy immune cells.
But that’s not all. Researchers also observed a regeneration of myelin with fasting. Myelin is the lining that insulates nerve cells in the spine and brain. And it’s what gets attacked by neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS).5
A small follow-up trial on patients with MS confirmed these findings. Subjects who followed a fasting plan for seven days reported improvements in both physical and mental health, as well as quality of life. (Of course, the fasting period was followed by six months of either Mediterranean-style or low-carb ketogenic eating plans. So clearly, temporary restriction isn’t the only factor that may have made a difference.)
And this isn’t the first time scientists have reported on the immune benefits of fasting. In fact, a study published back in 2014 suggested that it can help to regenerate white blood cells and ward off immunosuppression after chemotherapy. 5
Which brings me to the next bit of new research I want to share… These findings also came out of the University of Southern California. But instead of MS, this team turned its attention to the potential cancer-fighting effects of fasting.
As part of their investigation, researchers fed mice with breast or skin cancer a diet that mimicked the effects of fasting — namely, high in fat, and little else — during six weeks of chemotherapy treatment. And at the end of the study, the mice who received the dietary intervention had tumors half the size of the mice who received chemo alone.6
The explanation? Fasting triggered a sharp rise in the circulation of tumor-killing T-cells. (Kind of makes you wonder if the drugs are even necessary, doesn’t it?)
Granted, these results are in mice — so as always, there’s no saying if the same effects will hold true in real cancer patients. But you have absolutely nothing to lose by incorporating fasting into your daily, weekly, or monthly routine (except maybe a few unwanted pounds).
And assuming these studies’ theories pan out, there’s a whole lot to gain. Because if this is just the research that’s been published in the past year, there’s no saying what incredible benefits we’ll stumble upon next.
 Brown JE, et al. British Journal of Diabetes & Vascular Disease. 2013;13(2):68-72.
 Fuhrmeister J, et al. EMBO Mol Med. 2016 Jun 1;8(6):654-69.
 “Fasting and probiotics may help prevent diabetes.” The University of Auckland. 11 May 2016.
 Choi IY, et al. Cell Rep. 2016 Jun 7;15(10):2136-46.
 Cheng CW, et al. Cell Stem Cell. 2014 Jun 5;14(6):810-23.
 Di Biase S, et al. Cancer Cell. Volume 30, Issue 1, p136–146, 11 July 2016