Our bodies are finely tuned instruments of evolution. They’ve been shaped and molded by time and circumstance in order to conquer any obstacle placed before us. Unfortunately this refinement takes time, lots and lots of time. During the passage of time, much technological and societal advancement has taken place. We’ve gone from an active hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a sedentary cubicle-dwelling lifestyle in 200,000 years. That’s a blink of an eye in the grand scale of time! As a result, we still carry around previously advantageous genes that have left us with some pretty unsavory consequences.
In 1962, James V. Neel came up with the thrifty gene hypothesis to provide some explanation for the upward trend in type 2 diabetes and obesity cases modern societies were facing. He hypothesized that since early humans were hunter-gatherers who frequently had to live through cycles of famine and feast, genotypes that helped people pack on weight during times of feast, in order to better survive in upcoming times of famine, were evolutionarily favorable. This survival savvy group of genes was then dubbed the “thrifty genotype”. Thanks to the agricultural and industrial revolutions we are now in perpetual “feast” cycles, never experiencing a gap in food availability. Always having food at our fingertips is truly an amazing advancement, but our thrifty genes are still stuck in the past and continue to do what they’re programmed to do in times of feast: pack on the pounds.
So how are we supposed to circumvent the effects of our own thrifty genes? One suggested way to simulate the fasting/feasting cycle that our ancestors might have experienced through intermittent fasting. Cultures all around the world have been practicing fasting for hundreds of years. The Islamic holiday Ramadan involves fasting during the daylight and only eating at night. Scientists examined this practice and found that participants had higher levels of HDL cholesterol, commonly dubbed as “the good cholesterol”, and a decreased inflammatory response rate. But the proof doesn’t end there! Other studies have further researched intermittent fasting and found that intermittent fasting made the body more sensitive to insulin. When your body is more sensitive to insulin, it’s more efficient at utilizing the nutrients contained within the food you’re ingesting. This is a huge advantage to people suffering from type 2 diabetes that are relatively insensitive to insulin.
The concept of fasting may seem intimidating at first, I mean, how is someone really supposed to get through the day without eating? Well, there’s more than one way to practice intermittent fasting, and there are many methods that don’t involve fasting for full days at all.
Samples of Intermittent Fasting:
The 16/8 Method: The easiest method to start off with is the 16/8 method. With this fasting method, you consume all your daily calories in an 8 hour window and fast for the remaining 16 hours. For example, if you decide you want to have your first meal at 9AM, you can’t eat after 5PM. You can choose to put your 8 hour window wherever you want, making it a very adaptable to your ever-changing lifestyle.
5:2 Method: This plan is recommended for type 2 diabetics to improve their insulin resistance. With the 5:2 method you’re eating normally 5 days a week and eating 25% of your normal caloric intake (typically 500-600 calories) 2 days out of the week. Like the 16/8 fasting plan, what days you choose to be your fast days are completely up to you.
Warrior Fast: While this fast may have a dramatic name, the methodology behind it is pretty simple. Simply snack on raw fruits and veggies all day and eat one large, paleo-friendly meal at night.
24 Hour Fasting: The name is pretty self explanatory here. With this method you’ll be completely fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week. This method can be hard for beginners because it makes you quit food cold turkey for a whole day. If you want to try this method, definitely ease yourself in by trying the 16/8 or 5:2 method first.
Even with all the health benefits intermittent fasting entails, it’s still important to keep nutrition at the forefront of your mind. All your fasting efforts will go to waste if you’re not fueling your body with the correct things. AGS’s Health & Wellness genetic testing kit offers a detailed look into your genes and will help you determine what you should be eating and how much of it. Take control of your thrifty genes and find out more about what AGS’s Health & Wellness test can do for you.
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