The 2016 Nobel prize for medicine was awarded to Japanese scientist Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi for his research on autophagy, a process that occurs during fasting.
Autophagy means to “self eat”. It is the process by which the human body consumes and clears its own damaged cells and unused proteins. Insufficient autophagy is one of the main reasons for accumulation of damaged cells which eventually leads to all kinds of diseases in the body. Autophagy is important to prevent cancer and also plays a vital role in breaking down cells infected by bacteria and viruses.
Ayurveda has been recommending fasting for thousands of years. In addition, ancient India had recommended a practice of fasting (known as “Ekadasi upavasam”) for one day each fortnight. Many people religiously follow this practice to this day without any idea of its biological and therapeutic benefits. Through this process of fasting induced autophagy, our body repairs its damaged and degenerated cells.
Thus, modern research has confirmed the benefits and wisdom of this ancient spiritual practice followed in India for millennia. Intermittent fasting is an approach that has all the benefits of fasting but is more manageable and flexible. To learn about 5 different types of intermittent fasting please refer to my book The Paleovedic Diet.
Health benefits of intermittent fasting include:
- fat burning and weight loss
- reduction of blood sugar
- improvement in energy
- lowering cholesterol
- clearing diseased cells from the body
Clearly, our ancestors from South Asia understood these health benefits of fasting. They were able to connect the yearning for spiritual progress in a human being with the biological necessity of the human body. They had a deep understanding of health and wellness, which modern science continues to shed light on and confirm.