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The Health Benefits of Fasting and Autophagy: Why I Fast for 24 Hours Once Every Week and Intermittent Fast Daily

As a corollary to my last article, titled, “Discovering if Our Food is Toxic”, I have written another article about the health benefits of fasting and autophagy and my practice of fasting once every week for 24-hours and intermittent fasting daily for 17-hours. Some people that know I am about to launch a 20 course academy that focuses on wealth building often inquire about why I post videos on my IG: skwealthacademy account or pen articles about health on my blog, and the answer is simple. Regarding the posts about physical health on my IG account, since I’m working 12 hour to 16 hour days every day in preparation for the launch of my academy, I almost never feel like working out at the end of a very long day. Still, I force myself to do so as I realize the importance of physical health. Thus, these posts are meant to emphasize the importance of discipline, persistence, and grinding through activities that you don’t feel like doing in order to achieve one’s goals. With my academy, I intend to change how people think about wealth to include not only material wealth, but a much more holistic spectrum of wealth that incorporates physical health, integrity, and mental health. During my previous stint with a Wall Street firm, I encountered plenty of people with more material wealth than anyone could ever desire, but yet were devoid, or “poor” in mental health, physical health and integrity, with the consequent result a perpetual state of anxiety and overall unhappiness that would exclude them from a “wealthy” label in my book.

When I developed painful kidney stones, after never having been sick with anything but a common cold for the past ten years, because I suspected consumption of unclean food that I had judged to be clean to be the culprit (i.e. fresh vegetables purchased from a local market). Consequently, I decided to begin intermittent fasting for 17-hours every day as well as to engage in a full-day fast of 24-hours once a week. The significant benefits of fasting and autophagy have been well known for centuries, even if the scientific mechanisms of fasting had not yet been well understood. Famous American muckraker Upton Sinclair wrote a book at the turn of the 20th century called The Fasting Cure about his observations of various people with critical ailments that were cured through strict fasting regimens. Though this book contained carefully documented accounts of many people who were cured by undertaking a regimen of fasting, these accounts were strictly anecdotal and non-scientific, as the science behind the benefits of fasting, at the molecular level, were not understood at the time.

Since Upton Sinclair published The Fasting Cure in the early 1900s, the scientific understanding of the benefits of fasting and autophagy has made tremendous strides. In 2016, Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine for his groundbreaking research of autophagy, the study of the degradation and recycling of cellular components. During periods of cellular starvation known as autophagy, cells break down proteins and nonessential cellular components and recycle them for energy sources while simultaneously destroying invasive bacteria, viruses, and damaged cellular components. We all instinctively know not to eat when we are severely sick, and our self-inflicted short periods of starvation actually induce a period of autophagy in which our bodies expel bacteria and/or viruses at the cellular level and engage in functions of cellular repair that helps us to eventually recover from our ailments.

During one particularly bad flu I suffered more than a decade ago, I recall not eating for three to four days. In fact, given the work completed by Dr. Ohsumi, we now know that our family member’s and friend’s exhortations to “eat something” when we are very ill is completely wrong advice, as it is the period of mini-starvation that actually helps us to recover more quickly. In fact, scientists also believe that disruptions in autophagy leads to the aging process, cardiovascular disease, bone degradation and cognitive decline as well, so for those of us that want to look and feel decades younger that our biological age, intermittent fasting may just be our best all-natural solution for finding the ever elusive Fountain of Youth.

I have always believed that students express an abundance of gratitude upon graduating from high school and/or university and celebrate the “end” of their learning period because academics and traditional schooling fails to provide the type of learning and education that stimulates their interest and curiosity more so than their relief in being finished with the learning process. In life, we continually encounter people that extend their educational process well beyond the years of their highest academic degree achievement, including those that choose to learn a new language, learn more about nutrition, nature or history, or even learn how our global banking and monetary system truly operate for the first time in their lives, as those who sign up for my skwealthacademy will learn in the near future.

Consequently, not only has our traditional academic system failed to capture our imagination and creativity in the learning process, but our occupational systems have failed miserably in this capacity as well. Dr. Ohsumi stated, in an interview with The Journal of Cell Biology, “Unfortunately, these days, at least in Japan, young scientists want to get a stable job, so they are afraid to take risks. Most people decide to work on the most popular field because they think that is the easiest way to get a paper published.” And as you will learn in my academy, the reason so little intellectual criticism of Central Banking policies exist is because US Central Bankers serve as the gatekeepers of the publishing world regarding the world’s top economic journals. Thus, if a rising academic desires to make his name by being published in top economic journals, which is always a gold star to have on one’s resume and an important distinction into gaining access into the upper ranks of employment and career in economics, one has to refrain from ever criticizing Central Banker policies to secure this “honor”. To me, however, such an achievement is only a label of obedience and compliance to those in power and much more a scarlett letter of shame versus a distinction of honor. If one rises to the top by becoming a parasite upon humanity (see my review of the biting social commentary in the Oscar winning movie Parasite here), then there is little honor in such an achievement.

Without taking risks and without ever stepping out of line with the wishes of those that control who gains fame and honor in each industry, Dr. Ohsumi would never have produced his groundbreaking work about the benefits of fasting and autophagy and bestowed the gift of his research upon us all. However, when there are those that are willing to break the shackles of limitations that those in power try to place upon us, in the words of Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo, an autophagy researcher and co-director of the Institute for Aging at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, we are gifted with “some of the most elegant [research] you can imagine for the knowledge and the beauty of how cells work.” Juleen Zierath, a member of the Nobel committee that awarded Ohsumi the Nobel Prize declared, “Every day we need to replace about 200 to 300g of protein in our bodies… We are eating proteins every day, about 70g, but that’s not enough to take care of the requirement to make new proteins. Because of this machinery, we’re able to rely on some of our own proteins, maybe the damaged proteins or the long-lived proteins, and they are recycled with this sophisticated machinery so that we can sustain and we survive.”

In any event, I started my regimen of fasting for 24-hours one day each week and fasting for 17-hours every day not to stay youthful, but much more so for the benefits that regular fasting bestow on human physiology through the expulsion of damaged and dead cellular material. As long as I am not growing my own vegetables or farming or hunting for the meat and fish that I consume, I  can never be sure that my food is clean due to the rampant mislabeling or non-labeling of food that occurs in every nation in the world, third world or developed. Thus, I can never be certain with 100% confidence that my food is devoid of heavy metals, pesticides, and even toxic artificial chemicals (please read my article, “Discovering if Our Food is Toxic” to learn why). 

Despite the science of autophagy being relatively new, human beings have understood the benefits of fasting and autophagy for thousands of years. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus documented Egyptians fasting three times a month during ancient Egypt, and many historical figures have documented the health benefits of their fasting regimens for centuries. For those among you that may be younger and more self-indulgent and worried about your appearance, I specifically posted one photo on my Instagram to alleviate the concerns of those that falsely believe that fasting will cause loss of muscle mass. In this photo, though physical appearance was not the reason I started an intermittent fasting regimen, I retained all my muscle mass, and basically just became leaner, for a nice unexpected consequence of my fasting regime. Furthermore, three to four times a week, I engage in two-a-day workout routine, with my first workout either an isometric or weightlifting regimen at 5:30AM and my second workout a sprinting or stair running regimen at 7PM.  The first workout of the day that I complete is always on an empty stomach and I almost never feel tired or unable to complete my routine due to a lack of any food for the prior 12-hours.

In fact, since I started my regimen of fasting nearly a year-and-a-half ago, I feel more mentally and cognitively aware as well as more physically energetic throughout the duration of every day as opposed to the time when I used to eat three square meals because that’s simply what everyone else was doing. Herschel Walker, a professional American football player, famously only consumed one meal a day, subjecting his body to long periods of intermittent fasting daily and did not lose muscle mass. For the effects of autophagy to kick in, I’ve read different time frames for refraining from eating and drinking any liquid but water during intermittent fasting, with some periods as short as 12-hours (so yes, coffee addicts, this means that if you wake up and drink a cup of coffee, this consumption marks your “eating” period, as no liquid consumption but water is allowed during your intermittent fasting period). However, to really be effective, I believe that your intermittent fasting period should be 15-hours, not 12-hours at a minimum, and I always aim for either a 16 or 17-hour daily intermittent fasting period.

In any event, I have never felt better physically in my life since I committed to my fasting regime and can only recall being sick for a few days, with nothing more than a common cold, for the past year-and-a-half of my life. I know that my account above is purely anecdotal, but if you need a more scientific-grounded basis for starting your own fasting regime, merely read Dr. Ohsumi’s papers on autophagy. I believe that all of us should strive to learn throughout the course of our entire lives, and this topic makes a fine subject about which to learn more regarding its ability to significantly increase the quality of your life.