We all know that South Asians are at high risk for diabetes and heart disease. The main reason is due to a condition known as insulin resistance that is highly prevalent amongst South Asians. Excess insulin in the blood is the underlying cause of insulin resistance. This is mainly due to carbohydrate-rich and grain-based diet that rapidly raises the blood sugar. One of the hallmarks of insulin resistance is excess abdominal fat, a typical feature on many South Asian bodies. Abdominal fat is one of the trigger factors of chronic inflammation that is the root cause of almost every imaginable chronic disease from accelerated ageing to heart attacks and strokes to Alzheimer’s.
Molecular and genetic evidence has identified a gene associated with insulin resistance known as ENPP1. South Asians compared to any other ethnic groups have an even more aggressive version of this insulin resistant gene due to a mutation called K121Q
Evolutionary Genetic Mutation
Evolutionary biologist and geneticist have a theory known as the thrifty gene theory. South Asians, who were used to living in a year-round feast-famine cycle, inherited a gene that predisposed them to store body fat during times of famine. Famine has been an intrinsic part of South Asian life for thousands of years particularly during agricultural times when the unpredictable monsoon pattern often resulted in droughts, killing millions of people on a regular basis. The extra body fat was intended to provide energy when food was scarce.
Researchers think the intensity and duration of these periods of famine may have made South Asians more susceptible to the gene. In modern times famines have been made redundant due to the green revolution that introduced drought-resistant genetically manipulated wheat. Although this has solved the immediate need, it has brought about a host of other health-related issues. So how do we make ourselves healthy given the genetic predisposition we have to insulin resistance? The answer lies in intermittent fasting. Most of us are familiar with the practice of fasting for cultural, religious and spiritual reasons. Modern research has shown that by mimicking the periods of feast and famine cycle by intermittent fasting produces a number of biochemical benefits.
•Normalizing your insulin and leptin sensitivity: This occurs due to the body switching to burning fat instead of sugar during fasting.
•Normalizing ghrelin levels, known as the hunger hormone.
•Lowering triglycerides levels. •Promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production. HGH is a fat burning hormone and plays an important part in health, fitness and slowing the aging process.
•Reducing oxidative stress that decreases the accumulation of free radicals in the cell. •Boosts production of BDNF (Brain derived neurotrophic factor) that helps make new neurons and promote neural health. Intermittent fasting is an umbrella term that covers a wide array of fasting schedules. Generally it involves cutting calories in whole or in part, either a couple of days a week, every other day or even daily.
Different Kinds of Fasting Schedule
- 5:2 fasting- Eat normally for five days with two days of fasting interspersed between the feasting days. On fasting days cut the food to one-fourth your normal daily calories with plenty of herbal teas and water.
- Alternate day fasting- Where you fast one day and fast the next day. On fasting day you can have just one meal of 600 calories. When you include sleeping time, the fast can end up being as long as 32-36 hrs.
- Everyday fasting- Here you simply restrict your daily eating to a specific window of time, such as an eight-hour window. This method is much easier to comply once your body has shifted over from burning sugar to burning fat as its primary fuel.
Intermittent fasting is the most effective way to shed unwanted fat and eliminate sugar cravings. Since most of us are carrying excess fat we just can’t seem to burn, this is a really important benefit. When sugar is not needed as a primary fuel, your body will also not crave it as much when your sugar stores run low.
But compliance is a critical factor in any of these approaches. Yes, you will get hungry but your hunger will be appropriate and you will be surprised at how much less food will completely satisfy when you no longer need to rely on stored sugar in your body for your primary fuel. Fast with conviction and determination and you will notice that food craving literally disappear.
Why not give it a try- fast for a Hindu god, Gurunanak, Mahavir, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Allah, your beloved saint/ guru, a lost loved one or whatever person, spirit or ideal inspires you! Lastly please note that people with any of these conditions need to be cautious or avoid fasting- if you are diabetic, hypoglycemic, pregnant or nursing, have cortisol dysregulation.