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Is 36-hour fasting good for health? Experts’ take on Rishi Sunak’s weekly fast | Health

UK PM Rishi Sunak’s 36-hours fasting routine at the start of the week has aroused interest of fitness-conscious or those aspiring to lose weight. Sources close to Sunak told the Sunday Times that the PM starts his rigrous fast at 5pm on Sunday and continues it till 5am on Tuesday to reset and detox his system. In this fasting window, he is allowed to have water, tea or black coffee. Sunak in a recent interview that appeared on ITV’s mid-morning show on January 30 spoke about his weekly wellness routine, saying, “I wish I was as disciplined as has been reported. Like all of us, I start the week with the best of intentions and then you hit contact with reality at some point.” Sunak further said that he loved his food and “eats a lot of sugary pastries the rest of the week.” (Also read | Rishi Sunak’s 36-hours fasting may protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases: Study)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak revealed about his 36 hours fasting during an interview. (via REUTERS)

What is the Monk Fast, the 36-hour fasting pattern?

Experts say Rishi Sunak’s diet pattern where he fasts for 36 hours every week is popularly known as the Monk Fast and it’s a kind of intermittent fasting. In combination with exercise, the fasting pattern can help cut fat and retain body muscle mass. Not eating for 36 hours at a stretch can help facilitate the removal of damaged cells and encourages regeneration of healthy cells. It also has a positive impact on hormone regulation, as per dietitians. Experts say the Monk fast could be especially beneficial for Rishi Sunak considering it can enhance decision-making skills and cognitive prowess. Fasting for extended periods is associated with boosting brain power.

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Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief Nutritionist, Apollo Hospital, sharing the benefits of the dietary pattern says it helps in weight loss, preserving lean body and also aids in regeneration of healthy cells, which has anti-ageing benefits.

“Engaging in the Monk Fast, a 36-hour fasting regimen, alongside resistance training proves to be effective for weight loss, particularly in shedding fat while preserving essential lean body mass. This combination can contribute to a healthier body composition.The Monk Fast activates autophagy, a natural cellular process that facilitates the removal of damaged cells and encourages the regeneration of healthy cells. This mechanism not only provides antiaging benefits but also acts as a protective measure against Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative conditions,” says Dr Rohatgi.

Dr Rohatgi says fasting for 36 hours can have positive effects on blood sugar levels and this is particularly beneficial for individuals aiming to manage or prevent conditions related to blood sugar irregularities.

“The Monk Fast allows individuals to create a calorie deficit, which is crucial for weight management and can be a helpful component of a comprehensive approach to a healthy lifestyle,” she says.

The 36-hour fasting period as per the dietitian also exhibits anti-inflammatory effects, contributing to the overall reduction of inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is associated with various health issues, and mitigating it can have positive implications for overall well-being.

Possible side-effects of 36-hour fasting

Dr Rohatgi however warns against the side effects of fasting for longer periods saying they could lead to fatigue, irritability and decreased concentration in the short run. The diet may not be ideal for diabetics without their doctor’s consulation.

“Longer periods without food, such as 24, 36, 48 and 72-hour fasting periods, are not necessarily better for you, and may be dangerous. Going too long without eating might actually encourage your body to start storing more fat in response to starvation. Intermittent fasting can have unpleasant side effects. They could include hunger, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, decreased concentration, nausea, constipation and headaches. Most side effects go away within a month,” she says.

5 benefits of Rishi Sunak’s weekly fasting

Dr Archana Batra, Nutritionist, Physiotherapist, and Certified Diabetes Educator, Gurgaon shares benefits of Rishi Sunak’s dietary practice.

1. Enhanced metabolic flexibility

One of the key advantages of Rishi Sunak’s 36-hour fasting routine is the promotion of metabolic flexibility. The body becomes adept at switching between burning glucose and fat for energy, a process that supports weight management and reduces insulin resistance. This flexibility ensures a more efficient use of energy, contributing to better overall metabolic health.

2. Improved cognitive function

Fasting has been linked to enhanced brain function and cognitive abilities. During fasting, the body produces ketones, which serve as an alternative energy source for the brain. This metabolic shift has been associated with improved focus, concentration, and mental clarity. Rishi Sunak’s adherence to this fasting regimen may be contributing to his sharp decision-making skills.

3. Autophagy and cellular repair

Fasting triggers a process called autophagy, where the body cleans out damaged cells and regenerates new, healthy ones. This cellular repair mechanism is crucial for longevity and overall well-being. By adopting a 36-hour fasting routine, individuals like Rishi Sunak may be promoting the renewal of cells, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases and supporting a healthier aging process.

4. Balanced hormones

Extended fasting periods can have a positive impact on hormone regulation. Insulin sensitivity tends to improve, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, fasting may lead to an increase in human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a role in muscle preservation, fat metabolism, and overall body composition. Rishi Sunak’s commitment to this fasting practice may contribute to maintaining a healthy hormonal balance.

5. Psychological resilience and discipline

Beyond the physical benefits, the 36-hour fasting routine cultivates psychological resilience and discipline. Learning to manage hunger and resist the temptation to eat during the fasting period can enhance self-control and willpower. This mental fortitude can extend beyond dietary habits, positively influencing other areas of life, such as work and personal relationships.

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