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Man Fasts For 382 Days Straight & Loses 276 Pounds

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In Brief

  • 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.

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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

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But what about Angus Barbieri? Obviously we’re not saying long term fasts for this long are healthy, obviously for many people they will probably be unhealthy and unsafe unless medically supervised. In  the 1972 study doctors measured a number of concentrations within the body. For example, plasma potassium concentrations over the first four months decreased systematically. As a result, they provided a very small daily dose that increased his potassium level. After another 10 weeks, no potassium was given, and from there on in until the end of the fast, plasma potassium levels remained normal. Cholesterol concentrations also remained around 230 mg/ 100 ml until 300 days of fasting, but increased to 370 mg/100 ml during refeeding.

Plasma magnesium levels decreased over the first few weeks of the fast but then went up and stabilized. This is interesting to note as there is nothing going into the body, yet levels still stabilized after the initial decrease.

Normal plasma magnesium concentrations, despite magnesium ‘depletion’ in muscle tissue, have been described (Drenick et al., 1969) during short-term fasting (1-3 months). The only other relevant report is a remark (Runcie & Thomson, 1970) that one patient who fasted 71 days had a normal plasma magnesium level of 2-2 mEq/l at the time when she developed latent tetany. The decrease in the plasma magnesium concentration of our patient was systematic and persistent.

Furthermore:

The excretion of sodium, potassium, calcium and inorganic phosphate decreased to low levels throughout the first 100 days, but thereafter the excretion of all four urinary constituents, as well as of magnesium, began to increase. During the subsequent 200 days sodium excretion, previously between 2 and 20 mEq daily, reached over 80 mEq/24 hr, potassium excretion increased to 30-40 mEq daily and calcium excretion increased from 10-30 mg/24 hr to 250- 280 mg/24 hr. Magnesium excretion (which was not measured during the first 100 days) reached 10 mEq/ 24 hr between Days 200-300. Phosphate excretion, which had decreased to under 200 mg/24 hr, also increased to around 800 mg/24 hr, even exceeding 1000 mg/24 hr on occasion. Peak excretions of all these constituents were seen around Day 300, after which there was a marginal decrease, but excretion remained high.

Obviously, this is an extreme fast and such fasts have only been tested on people of tremendous obesity, and it shows that people with a high body fat percentage have the ability to fast longer simply because their body has more stores to pull from.

The study concluded in 1972 that:

We have found, like Munro and colleagues (1970), that prolonged supervised therapeutic starvation of the obese patient can be a safe therapy, which is also effective if the ideal weight is reached. There is, however, likely to be occasionally a risk in some individuals, attributable to failures in different aspects of the adaptative response to fasting. Until the characteristics of these variations in response are identified, and shown to be capable of detection in their prodromal stages, extended starvation therapy must be used cautiously. In our view, unless unusual hypokalaemia is seen, potassium supplements are not mandatory. Xanthine oxidase inhibitors (or uricosuric agents) are not always necessary and could even be potentially harmful (British Medical Journal, 1971) perhaps particularly in the long-term fasting situation.

It’s almost 2020, and the literature, studies and research that’s been published since 1972 is vast. We’ve learned a lot more about it and if done correctly it can be extremely beneficial. Shot term fasting  presents minimal to no health risks, and so does long term fasting that lasts more than 24 hours, that is unless a person already has an underlying condition. That being said, it’s not easy to start. Most people are used to eating three meals plus snacks every single day, therefore they are never adapted to burning their fat stores, something that appears the human body was meant to do.

“Why is it that the normal diet is three meals a day plus snacks? It isn’t that it’s the healthiest eating pattern, now that’s my opinion but I think there is a lot of evidence to support that. There are a lot of pressures to have that eating pattern, there’s a lot of money involved. The food industry — are they going to make money from skipping breakfast like I did today? No, they’re going to lose money. If people fast, the food industry loses money. What about the pharmaceutical industries? What if people do some intermittent fasting, exercise periodically and are very healthy, is the pharmaceutical industry going to make any money on healthy people?” – Mark Mattson (source)

Fasting has also been shown to be effective as a therapeutic intervention for cancer. Fasting protects healthy cells while ‘starving’ cancer cells, it’s now being used as an intervention that’s being combined with chemotherapy. Fasting has also been shown to greatly reduce the risk of age related diseases like Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Mark Mattson, one of the foremost researchers of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying multiple neurodegenerative disorders has shown through his work that fasting can have a tremendous effect on the brain, and can even reverse the symptoms of multiple neurodegenerative disorders. You can watch his interesting TED talk here.  Scientists have also discovered strong evidence that fasting is a natural intervention for triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an entire organ or system.

Fasting has actually long been known to have an effect on the brain. Children who suffer from epileptic seizures have fewer of them when placed on caloric restriction or fasts. It is believed that fasting helps kick-start protective measures that help counteract the overexcited signals that epileptic brains often exhibit.  (source)

The list goes on and is quite long. At the end of the day if you do your research, fasting, under proper medical supervision, can have tremendous health benefits that go far beyond what’s mentioned in the paragraph above. Every single study that has looked at fasting as a therapeutic intervention for several diseases has shown nothing but positive benefits. Even studies conducted regarding caloric restriction, something completely different than fasting, have shown promising results in all animal models.

According to a review of fasting literature conducted in 2003, “Calorie restriction (CR) extends life span and retards age-related chronic diseases in a variety of species, including rats, mice, fish, flies, worms, and yeast. The mechanism or mechanisms through which this occurs are unclear.” Since this study was published, a great amount of research has been conducted from many researchers, and the mechanisms are being discovered and have become more clear. If you want to further your research, apart from the names listed above, Dr. Valter Longo and his research is another great place to start.

The body has a tremendous amount of storage, and it hangs on to what it needs during a fast, and uses up ‘bad’ things, repairs damaged cells, and more. When you fast and deplete all your glycogen, your body is going to start using fat for energy, it’s going to use damaged cells for energy, it’s basically going to use all of the bad things first, before it gets to the good thing…Your body will not burn protein, as protein is not a fuel source while fasting.

I bring this up because it’s interesting to see what the body loses and hangs on to during a fast.

The Takeaway

The truth about fasting is that it’s not dangerous at all. Intermittent fasting and short term fasting can be done by just about anybody. From what we’ve seen with regards to prolonged fasting, it’s also not very dangerous when it comes to obese people doing it under medically supervised conditions. Theoretically, based on the science alone, any relatively healthy human being should be able to do a prolonged fast without any harmful consequences.

Obviously, prolonged fasts that are not medically supervised can be very detrimental. We are obviously not recommending this and you must do a lot of research and talk to your doctor if you’re interested in fasting, before trying it. For starters, a little bit of intermittent fasting here and there is a no brainer, and not dangerous at all if you have no underlying health conditions, but everybody’s body is different.

Fasting is making a lot of noise, and has been making a lot of noise within the health community, but it’s still not appropriately taught and used by the mainstream medical industry. Why is this so? The answer is simple, you can’t make money off of fasting.

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Brain Scans Reveal Structural Differences In People With “Smart Phone Addiction”

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new study recently published by German researchers from Heidelberg University show differences in brain structure between people with 'smart phone addition' compared to people without it.

  • Reflect On:

    Is your child constantly on their smartphone? Are they addicted?

Children entering into the world today are being birthed into a sea of technology that their parents never grew up with. As a result, we don’t really know the long-term consequences these technologies could have on these generations as they age. Preliminary research, however, is already showing significant cause for concern, and one of the latest examples comes from a study published in the journal Addictive Behaviours via German researchers.

The researchers examined 48 participants using MRI imaging, and 22 of the participants had smartphone addiction (SPA), and 26 of them were non-addicts. The main findings were that individuals with SPA  showed “significant lower” grey matter volume (GMA) in the insula and in certain regions of the temporal cortex compared to the individuals without smartphone addiction, known as the controls. Secondly, right anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) activity was “significantly lower” in individuals with SPA compared to controls. Third, the researchers found associations between the smartphone addiction inventory  (SPAI) scores and GMV as well as  amplitude of low frequency fluctuations (ALFF), converged on the ACC.

The authors wrote that:

The present study provides first evidence for common neural underpinning mechanisms of behavioral addiction in individuals with SPA. This study clearly needs replication as much as extension in larger cohorts, including longitudinal assessments, ecological momentary assessment and task-based functional MRI. Yet, at the same time, this study provides important data and preliminary evidence, suggesting addiction-related differences in neural processes in the context of smartphone use, particularly with respect to the salience network. Given the widespread use and increasing popularity of smartphones, the present study challenges assumptions towards the harmlessness of smartphones, at least in individuals that may be at increased risk for developing addictive behaviors.

It should be concerning that there are actual structural changes in the brain that correlate with smartphone use in individuals who have an addiction compared to the brains of those who don’t.

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The study goes into what each brain region is associated with in regards to behaviour, intelligence, etc.

In China, for example, teenagers are becoming hooked on electronic screens. Whether it be with their phone, computer, or video games, many young people are spending countless hours in front of a screen without bothering to eat or sleep, sometimes even withholding their urge to use the bathroom.

According to a blog report published by the New York Times“many have come to view the real world as fake.” (source)

In China, this phenomenon is actually considered a clinical disorder, and as a result a number of rehabilitation centres have been established where young people addicted to screens are completely isolated from all media. Although the success of these treatment centres is still unknown, it paints a dark picture of the technological age in which we live, and does not seem to bode well for our future.

Studies in China show that people who spend more than 6 hours on the internet for something other than work or study are likely to become addicted. Below is a trailer for the documentary “Web Junkies,” shedding light on this troubling aspect of modern life:

It’s not just China, this type of thing is seen all around the world:

“While Internet addiction is not yet considered a clinical diagnosis here, there’s no question that American youths are plugged in and tuned out of ‘live’ action for many more hours of the day than experts consider healthy for normal development. And it starts early, often with preverbal toddlers handed their parents’ cellphones and tablets to entertain themselves when they should be observing the world around them and interacting with their caregivers.” (source)

As we continue to move forward, this type of addiction and behaviour becomes more disturbing. The power that some multinational corporations have, alongside their clever marketing tactics – basically making whatever product or idea they choose to be desirable to the human mind – is worrisome.  A few years ago, the American Academy of Paediatrics found that the average 8-10 year old spends almost eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children/teenagers spend even more, up to 11 hours. (source)

A study conducted by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, which included over 20,000 children/teens between grades 3 and 12, concluded that approximately 20% of grade 3 students already owned a cell phone. The numbers steadily rose from that point forward to approximately 25% in grade 4, 39% in grade 5, and 83% in middle school. You can read that entire study HERE.

With all of these electronics, it’s important to be aware of the impact of the radiation they give out and their documented harms. To learn more about that and access the science now available, please visit the Environmental Health Trust. It’s a great place to start your research.

The Takeaway

We are in the beginning stages of what could potentially be a big problem. We have yet to see the smartphone generation reach adulthood, therefore we can’t fully measure the potential consequences, but again, numerous studies like this one have already shown great cause for concern and render the idea that smartphones are completely harmless as completely false.

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Awareness

Frankincense Shows The Ability To Alleviate Symptoms Of Anxiety & Depression

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Studies have proven the psychoactive effects the scent of frankincense has on the brain, alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression.

  • Reflect On:

    With all the man-made chemical pharmaceutical drugs out there, perhaps solutions to what ails us are more simple than we may realize.

Gold and frankincense and myrrh… sound familiar? These were the gifts that were allegedly brought by the three kings when Jesus Christ was born. We all know that gold is valuable, but what about the others? Frankincense has long been touted as a magical, mystical medicine and has been regarded as such for millennia within many ancient cultures of the world. The same goes for myrrh, but for the purpose of this article we are going to stick to the medicinal properties of frankincense.

Frankincense starts out as a type of resinous sap that is found inside a special family of trees called Boswellia, which grow almost exclusively in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. When it is harvested at specific times of the year, the trees are cut carefully with special knives and the sap seeps out. This special sap is then dried in the sun until it is ready for use. More commonly, frankincense is burned simply as sweet smelling incense, but it has many other uses as well including the following…

Historical Uses Of Frankincense

  • As a part of ritual or religious ceremonies
  • Was used extensively during burial rituals as an embalming material to help mask the odor of the deceased body
  • Smoke from burnt incense can effectively drive away mosquitoes and other pests

Frankincense has also been used medicinally, treating various ailments such as arthritis (it has strong anti-inflammatory properties), gut disorders (like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), asthma, and maintenance of oral health.

And perhaps the most intriguing quality for our westernized modern culture is the psychoactive effects of this special resin, as studies have shown that burning frankincense can trigger an effect that can aid and even alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The Research

One study in particular, conducted by a team of researchers form John Hopkins University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, explains how burning the resin from the Boswellia plant (frankincense) activates certain previously misunderstood ion channels in the brain in order to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. This might explain why Roman emperor Nero once burned an entire year’s harvest of frankincense at his favorite mistress’ funeral.

“In spite of information stemming from ancient texts, constituents of Bosweilla had not been investigated for psychoactivity,” said Raphael Mechoulam, one of the research study’s co-authors. “We found that incensole acetate, a Boswellia resin constituent, when tested in mice lowers anxiety and causes antidepressive-like behavior. Apparently, most present day worshipers assume that incense burning has only a symbolic meaning.”

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The researchers administered incensole acetate to mice in order to determine its psychoactive effects. This compound they found drastically impacted the parts of the brain that generate emotions and the nerve circuits that have responded positively to current drugs used for depression and anxiety. The incensole that was administered activated a protein called TRPV3, which is connected to the ability to perceive warmth of the skin.

“Perhaps Marx wasn’t too wrong when he called religion the opium of the people: morphine comes from poppies, cannabinoids from marijuana, and LSD from mushrooms; each of these has been used in one or another religious ceremony,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “Studies of how those psychoactive drugs work have helped us understand modern neurobiology. The discovery of how incensole acetate, purified from frankincense, works on specific targets in the brain should also help us understand diseases of the nervous system. This study also provides a biological explanation for millennia-old spiritual practices that have persisted across time, distance, culture, language, and religion–burning incense really does make you feel warm and tingly all over!”

Can This Work For You?

Sure, this study was conducted using mice, which certainly aren’t the same as humans. However, many religious texts claim that this special resin had uplifting effects on the brain. So, the good thing is that if used appropriately, it really can’t hurt to try. You can typically buy the resin at health food stores and more commonly at stores that sell incense, crystals, sage and those sorts of spiritual ceremonial tools. It can also be found as an essential oil. I like to diffuse it in a diffuser, and sometimes I’ll burn the resin on charcoal pucks as well.

At the very least, you’ll get a nice and pleasant smelling aroma, and at best it can help turn that frown upside down, increase your mood, reduce your anxiety and maybe even put a smile on your face. Perhaps those three wise men were as wise as they’ve been made out to be, and frankincense really is as special as it’s been believed to be for millennia.

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Binge Watching Is Associated With a 12 Percent Increased Risk of Inflammatory-Related Death

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    An Australian study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise looked at more than 8,900 adults and found that each additional hour of TV viewing was associated with a 12% increased risk of inflammatory-related death.

  • Reflect On:

    How much TV do you watch? How active is your lifestyle?

I’m sure that you hesitated before choosing to read this article, as most of us have been sucked into a binge watching marathon on more than one occasion (myself included). While it may seem like we’re buckling down to give ourselves a break, we may actually be hurting ourselves far more than we realize. Sitting for prolonged periods of time has proven to be harmful to our bodies, especially for adults over 50, and when you match lounging with television, you create a deadly combo.

In an Australian study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers examined more than 8,900 adults and found that each additional hour of TV viewing was associated with a 12% increased risk of inflammatory-related death, and those who spent more than four hours a day watching TV were at an even higher risk. This includes  diabetes, respiratory, cognitive, and kidney diseases. (source)

In general, watching television has proven to negatively impact mental health; it alters your brain, lowers your attention span, and has the potential to make you more aggressive. You don’t need to experience the “trance-like” state television can put us in, but I’m sure you’ve witnessed it before. This trance occurs roughly 30 seconds after you start watching TV. Your brain begins by producing alpha waves, leading to a light hypnotic state that makes the viewer less aware of their environment and more open to subtle messages — aka programming.

In the 1990s. Dr. Teresa Belton, a visiting fellow at the University of East Anglia, studied the effects that television has on the imagination of 10-12 year old children, ultimately concluding that television negatively impacts their development: “The ubiquity and ease of access to television and videos perhaps robs today’s children of the need to pursue their own thoughts and devise their own occupations, distracting them from inner processes and constantly demanding responses to external agendas, and suggests that this may have implications for the development of imaginative capacity.”

And these physical affects are becoming increasingly apparent. Not only does it eventually lead to immobility as you age, but with the risk of creating inflammation in the body, you are susceptible to a host of diseases including kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s, and even depression.

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Dr. Megan Grace is the lead investigator at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne. Between 1999 and 2000, her team quizzed adult participants about their viewing habits via a questionnaire. Again, this was before we had access to popular streaming websites like Netflix. The participants were separated into three groups based on their TV viewing habits: less than two hours per day, greater than two hours but less than four hours, and more than four hours.

“TV time was associated with increased risk of inflammatory-related mortality. This is consistent with the hypothesis that high TV viewing may be associated with a chronic inflammatory state,” the authors wrote.

They followed up with their participants 12 years later and found, of 909 deaths, 130 were inflammatory-related. Of the inflammatory-related deaths, 21 were from diseases of the respiratory system and 18 of the nervous system, and those who watched between two to four hours of TV a day showed a 54% higher risk of inflammatory-related death. Additionally, people who watched more than four hours of TV a day doubled their risk of dying from an inflammatory disease compared to those who watched two hours.

In addition to cutting down the amount of time you spend sitting in front of the TV and sitting or lying down, you can help combat inflammation with a number of foods like avocados, berries, sweet potato, onions, and watermelon, and herbs like, cloves, ginger, rosemary, and turmeric.

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