- The Facts:Angus Barbieri, a man who, in June of 1965, began a fast under medical supervision for exactly 382 days. He remained completely healthy for the duration of the fast.
- Reflect On:Today, it’s firmly established in scientific literature that fasting can have tremendous benefits, if done correctly. It can also be used to treat a variety of diseases. Perhaps it’s not emphasized because you can’t make money off of not eating?
A study published in the Post Graduate Medical Journal in 1972 brought more attention to a gentleman by the name of Angus Barbieri, a man who, in June of 1965, began a fast under medical supervision for exactly 382 days and, at the time the study was published, had since maintained his ordinary weight. In his case, “prolonged fasting had no ill effects.” Barbieri’s weight decreased from 456 to 180 pounds during the fast.
This isn’t the only example that’s available in the literature, it’s similar to an earlier patient prior to Barbieri who reduced his weight from 432 to 235 pounds during 350 days of intermittent fasting (Stewart, Fleming & Robertson, 1966). Researchers have also fasted patients for 256 days (Collison, 1967, 1971), 249 and 236 days (Thomson et al., 1966) as well as 210 days (Garnett et al., 1969; Runcie & Thomson, 1970), all of which are cited in the 1972 study.
Since the publication of this time, there are many documented examples of prolonged fasting done by highly obese people. Here’s one recent example of a man who fasted for 50 straight days, while being medically supervised and tested the whole time.
When you fast, your body switches from burning glucose, to burning fat. Fasting lowers insulin levels which allows the body to access its fat stores for energy. When you eat, food is converted into glucose and that’s what we usually burn. This is why fasting has become a therapeutic intervention for many people with type two diabetes, and more doctors, like Dr. Jason Fung, a Toronto Based nephrologist, are having great success with utilizing fasting as an appropriate and necessary health intervention. Fung has many great articles regarding the science of fasting, you can access them here if you’re interested in learning more. This article references some of the leading scientists in the field so you can learn more by looking them up as well.
The graph below depicts what happens to your protein while fasting. Interesting isn’t it? People often believe that if you fast, you will experience a tremendous amount of muscle loss during fasting, but that’s simply not true. This graph is from Kevin Hall, from the NIH in the book “Comparative Physiology of Fasting, Starvation, and Food Limitation.”
“It seems that there are always concerns about loss of muscle mass during fasting. I never get away from this question. No matter how many times I answer it, somebody always asks, “Doesn’t fasting burn your muscle?” Let me say straight up, NO.” – source Dr. Jason Fung.