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Can Fasting be Good for You?

Some think that fasting, or skipping meals is a good way to boost weight loss. Unfortunately, skipping meals or any extended period of fasting can have significant adverse effects on the body, particularly for adults with chronic health conditions or elderly adults. Even short term fasting can result in weakness and muscle loss.

Despite these issues, a recent study showed that, in small amounts, this breakdown of muscle tissue that occurs may have some benefit for young, healthy adults.

At Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, a team of researchers followed 8 healthy men over the course of a 72-hour fasting session. They measured their mTOR activity, which is an indicator of muscle cell growth. When mTOR levels drop, the speed of muscle wasting increases.

Although you do not want to have too much muscle wasting, there are certain ways that this process can trigger what is referred to as “cell survival responses,” and help cells regenerate under certain conditions.

The reality of the situation is that it is not healthy for the elderly or the chronically sick to skip meals, but young, healthy adults may benefit from short term fasting periods. Extensive research on humans has not been completed, but the initial results from rat studies show promise for helping cells learn to survive and last longer.

Researchers are interested in learning whether or not this can eventually increase longevity. Body builders have long used fasting as a strategy for muscle building, and there may be some solid evidence there.

While muscle loss is a serious problem for many, it might be part of a healthy, strengthening process for some. This latest research helps to illuminate how short periods of fasting or skipping the occasional meal may help young, strong adults build up cellular strength and endurance, perhaps helping the cells—and maybe the entire body—to live longer.

Further research is indicated in this area before any strong recommendations can be made, but initial results show promise. As long as the fasting or meal skipping is not done as a weight loss program, it might end up being a recommended strategy for improving health and longevity.