At the same time, a society of full bellies is tempted by hunger, as more than 70 percent of people in Germany can imagine themselves fasting, according to a survey conducted by the opinion research institute Forsa.
Last year, the Munich Medical Weekly Journal reported that fasting is “increasingly being used in the field of medicine as well…Underpinned by current studies, so-called therapeutic fasting is undergoing a real boom.”
In Germany, in the 1920s, the pacifist Dr. Otto Buchinger created a version of therapeutic fasting that remains popular to this day.
Also popular in Germany, the alkaline diet, or Basenfasten, is based on the notion that the body “overacidifies” if an excess of sugar, coffee, white flour or other refined foods is ingested.
However, staying in luxury fasting clinics for several weeks at a time is far too expensive to solve a problem affecting so many people — and few can even afford a fasting treatment in a hospital.
Another option is known as interval fasting, although neither the 2:5 version (fast two days per week, eat normally five days per week) nor the 1:1 version (fast one day, eat normally the next) has really caught on.
By abstaining from a meal at the beginning or end of the day, one restricts calorie intake to a time window of six to 12 hours in a 24-hour cycle.
One group of laboratory mice was allowed to eat around the clock; after 100 days, the animals were fat, had high blood sugar levels and liver damage.
While they consumed just as many calories as the mice in the first group, they were healthier and an average of 28 percent lighter after 100 days.
In a study published in June in the same journal, men with early-stage type 2 diabetes were given food that contained precisely the number of calories their bodies needed.
In 11 out of 16 time-restricted feeding studies on people, the test subjects succeeded in significantly reducing their body weight.
Consuming calories early in the day and prolonged fasting in the evening and at night “may be a simple, feasible and potentially effective disease prevention strategy at the population level,” according to scientists in the Annual Review of Nutrition.
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