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How Fasting is Revolutionising the Way We Think about Health

Over the past twenty years, scientists and members of academia across the world have been researching the science of fasting, leading to discoveries helping to reverse ageing and chronic diseases in individuals.

Imagine not only living longer, but staying as healthy as possible later in life. The overall global population reported a life expectancy at birth of 74.1 years in 2015, up 3.4 years from 2005 according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Health Observatory Data. WHO predicts global life expectancy will reach 77 years by year 2050. Yet, as people live longer, the number of sick years later in life is expected to increase as well. The healthy life expectancy (HALE) at birth was only 63.1 years in 2015, meaning sick years accounted for 11 years. An estimated 70 percent of deaths (39.5 million) were due to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes; all these diseases have become a cause in the increase in sick years as people live longer across the world.

Figure 1 - Overview of Global Health and Life Expectancy

The compression in the number of sick years later in life is becoming an important focus in consumer health policy around the world. Consequently, there is a critical need to bring to market an array of healthy products and dietary interventions to help people stay as healthy as possible as they live longer. A specific wellness area that is growing particularly at fast rates is fasting. For centuries, humans have engaged in fasting rituals as means of general wellbeing. Alternatively, medical fasting due to illness has existed since Hippocrates, widely considered the father of medicine.

Until now, the majority of fasting programmes had been marketed as dietary interventions for weight loss. Yet, one of the fundamental premises of fasting is that it generates a protective mode in the pathways of metabolic biomarkers. People knew fasting was good in certain circumstances, but the scientific explanation behind these positive results was elusive and was based mainly on a few observational studies and surveys. Over the past twenty years, scientists and members of academia across the world have been researching the science of fasting, leading to discoveries helping to reverse ageing and chronic diseases in individuals. To better understand the latest trend on fasting, we first need to understand the different types of fasting:

a)       Time restricted feeding (TRF): a daily fasting which restricts the time of meals, but is not necessarily calorie restricted. Most health benefits are seen with daily fasting periods of 12 to 16 hours across several weeks.

b)      Alternate fasting: focuses on alternating fasting every other day.

c)       Intermittent fasting: Most prominently the 5:2 diet comprising two days of fasting and five days of no fasting per week. This fasting approach became very popular with the book ‘The Fast Diet’ published by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer in 2013.

d)      Periodic fasting: Consisting of a few uninterrupted days of fasting to reset the body. Most notably, L-Nutra has developed a periodic regimen of 5-days that mimics fasting via a science-based formulation of nutrients in a low-calorie diet (LCD) that provides nourishment to the body while maintaining it in a fasting mode.

e)      Prolonged fasting: usually entails several days of uninterrupted fasting, with very little food or no food at all. Most recently, water fasting has come up to light. Yet, this type of fasting poses a significant health risk to consumers.

f)        Medical fasting: a type of managed fasting carried out before, during, or after a specific disease where consumption of food is restricted to promote healing.

Figure 2 - Benefits of Periodic Fasting ©L-Nutra Inc.

Fasting products are taking a share away from traditional weight management and meal replacement supplements as the market diversifies with innovation. According to several sources, the global market of weight management and fitness industry is about US$250 billion. The renaissance of fasting is anticipated to build more presence in global markets in the next decade despite its relative small size at present time. Consumers are embracing change. Fasting is a renewed wellness alternative for consumers backed with science, and that will open new revenue sources for producers, marketers, and firms selling products and health solutions for the betterment of health in humanity.

Monica Feldman will be speaking at Vitafoods Europe 2018 to present more information and trends related to fasting in the booming business of consumer health and wellness. Register to attend here.

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