The Science of Fasting

Epochal Science

Running on Empty

Regularly taking breaks from eating—for hours or days—can trigger changes both expected, such as in metabolic dynamics and inflammation, and surprising, as in immune system function and cancer progression.

By Bob Grant | June 1, 2017 | The Scientist

In 1971, a 27-year-old, 456-pound man went to the University of Dundee’s department of medicine in Scotland looking for help. Patient A.B., as doctors referred to him, needed to lose weight. His physicians recommended a short but drastic course of action: stop eating altogether. The patient responded so well to a brief stint without food that he decided to prolong the deprivation—for more than a year.

“[H]is fast was continued into what is presently the longest recorded fast (Guinness Book of Records, 1971),” the clinicians wrote in a 1973 case report, claiming A.B. suffered little or no untoward effects on his health.1 And at the end of…

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