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Intermittent Fasting and Its Beneficial Effects On The Body

Jan 30, 2016
Editor: Steve Freed, R.PH., CDE

Author: Samantha Ferguson, Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate University of FAMU College of Pharmacy 

Dr. Mark Mattson intermittent fasting research: old tradition potentially benefits body’s organs, providing possible cure and treatment.

Research and a sit down with Dr. Mark Mattson at the NIH shows intermittent fasting is resurfacing as a medical treatment used in certain comorbidities, rather than medication.  So often individuals consume food throughout the day without much energy expenditure, which over time becomes a problem due to the types of unhealthy food consumed, and the amount of food consumed.  Hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and even diabetes become the end result of those behaviors.  Fasting could be the new savior to these conditions, with the benefits going through the roof.


Click here to access Dr. Mark Mattson intermittent fasting video series & downloadable transcript – exclusive discussion with Diabetes in Control —

Fasting means to eat only small meals, or none at all, for long periods of time. This can be done every day or even one day a month. Different types of intermittent fasting consist of alternate day fasting or ingesting less than 600 calories a day, eating a regular diet five days a week and only 600 calories the remaining two days, and lastly eating all of one’s calories during a 4-8 hour window.  These different types of fasting can be tailored to fit each individuals needs and schedules, with the addition of not needing to eat breakfast.

Dr. Mattson also debunked the rule of eating three meals a day with a valid point comparing earlier times to now.  “There is evidence that the 3 meals/day routine began during the early period of the agricultural revolution when people were working hard on the farms every day. They undoubtedly had a high calorie requirement to support their high energy expenditure (e.g., 4000 – 5000 calories/day).  Eating upon waking, then eating while taking a work break mid–day, and then eating in the evening at the end of the work day was presumably the most efficient way to eat and facilitated socializing and discussions of plans for work, etc.” Individuals in today’s society use less energy and intake more calories than required, unlike before.  

While fasting, the body will undergo many processes that are extremely beneficial. The brain will increase neurotrophic factors, improving cognitive function, while also being able to function under stress, causing an increase in stress resistance. Mattson and Dr. Valter Longo back this claim up with a review published in cell press discussing “Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications.”  Other functions include decreased insulin growth factor, and leptin in the blood. While also in the blood, ketones, adiponectin, and ghrelin are increased. The liver and muscles increase insulin sensitivity, benefitting people with diabetes, while fat cells undergo lipolysis and reduced inflammation. The intestines take up less energy and reduce cell proliferation, which will impact obesity in large ways. Fasting will also reduce the resting heart rate, blood pressure, and increase stress resistance.  This process will enable the body to work under loads of stress while being beneficial in the long run for clinical outcomes.

A recently published study in December 2015 also highlighted the benefits of alternate day intermittent fasting.  The subjects were obese male rats, and body fat was reduced by 40-52% after four weeks of a special fasting diet. This study can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26653760 for further information.  In another Mattson study, he also concluded that energy restriction and exercise will improve brain function and decrease neuro effects by suppressing overeating and increasing the urge to exercise with correct energy expenditure.

Dr. Mattson has also stated that cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, parkinson’s, and even alzheimer’s disease could be managed with this type of therapy. This is information that could potentially save a life, limb, or a brain. This is a highly recommended approach to preventing or treating diabetes.  While some cultures use this method spiritually, they are actually helping themselves. Physicians should look more into this phenomenon using human subjects versus animals to provide more evidence to become more mainstream.  Intermittent fasting is free with no charge to patients, which is such a relief.

To see the complete interview with Dr. Mark Mattson or read the transcript, go to “Intermittent Fasting: What is it? Recommend it?”

Practice  Pearls

  •    Fasting can enhance DNA repair and stimulate antioxidant defenses.
  •    Balancing calories can be a means of weight management.
  •    A sedentary female over 18 years of age needs about 2,000 calories a day, while a man in the same group needs about 2,500 calories a day.
  1.      Mattson, Mark P. “Energy Intake And Exercise As Determinants Of Brain Health And Vulnerability To Injury And Disease”. Cell Metabolism 16.6 (2012): 706-722. Web.
  2.      Longo, Valter D., and Mark P. Mattson. “Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms And Clinical Applications”. Cell Metabolism 19.2 (2014): 181-192. Web.
  3.      Gotthardt, Juliet D. et al. “Intermittent Fasting Promotes Fat Loss With Lean Mass Retention, Increased Hypothalamic Norepinephrine Content, And Increased Neuropeptide Y Gene Expression In Diet-Induced Obese Male Mice”. Endocrinology (2015): en.2015-1622. Web.
  4.      Mattson, Mark. “Why Fasting Bolsters Brain Power: Mark Mattson At Tedxjohnshopkinsuniversity”. YouTube. N.p., 2016. Web. 18 Jan. 2016.

Mark, Mattson. Intermittent Fasting. 2016. in person.


Researched and prepared by Samantha Ferguson, Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate University of FAMU College of Pharmacy