When a charismatic cardiologist posts lectures on the benefits of fasting, it catches my attention. Dr. Pradip Jamnadas has done some studying between his demanding cardiology practice and understands the biology of what happens to the body when we fast. He easily explains the chemical processes that our bodies shift into when fasting to activate numerous genes that start repairing us from a biological perspective, from activating a gene to reduce inflammation to another that directly repairs damaged DNA, to another that recycles damaged cells, to setting the stage for producing stem cells and growing new brain cells. It really is fascinating and corroborated by the science.
These mechanisms developed in our species over the course of 100000 generations from early paleolithic times. A daunting number of generations when compared to both the agricultural developments in the last few hundred years and the industrial developments in the last few generations.
However much knowledge Dr. Jamnadas demonstrates on the science of fasting, there are abundant holes in his knowledge around the practice of fasting and the optimal diet for humans to express a healthy biology that are now accepted at the core of nutritional science and diet and advocated by the voices of many doctors and researchers who have devoted their lives to studying clinical nutrition and healthy populations of the past (as there are few left now as the west encroaches on them). For one, Dr. Jamnadas places the blame on carbohydrates for modern obesity and insulin problems. His solution is to stop eating all carbohydrates, the restriction of which in study after study has been associated with an increase in all causes of mortality. This is not a solution.
All carbohydrates are not created equally – some are grown in factories and some are grown. While processed carbohydrates and refined carbohydrates, like refined sugar and wheat, are unhealthful, and contribute to chronic lifestyle induced diseases (obesity, cancer, heart disease), whole complex carbohydrates and starches, like legumes, potatoes, oats, are the opposite: healthy and the core component in the diets of the longest lived populations on the planet. It is the western diet, high in meats, animal fats (dairy/meat), and these processed foods that are at the root cause of the insulin problem.
The framework for understanding how animal fat cripples our body’s insulin sensitivity is explained at length by many who have studied it, Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. Michael Greger. Dietary fat blocks the uptake of glucose into the cell by blocking the insulin receptors. More insulin is needed and the system of getting energy into the muscle cells becomes dysfunctional. More insulin is produced, more fat is gained. The solution is to eat a low fat plant-based diet. Not a “low-fat” diet (around 30% total calories) as touted by the American Diabetes Association which is inadequate and not truly low-fat. But, a low-fat diet (<10% of total calories) mimicking those of the longest lived populations that do not suffer from obesity or chronic lifestyle induced diseases (heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, type 2 diabetes, etc.). And one that actually has clinical studies supporting its role in the reversal of these diseases. A simple diet centered around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and starches easily achieves this with unrestricted eating.
Dr. Jamnadas also explains that the paleo period as the time we hunted and ate meat giving us an edge evolutionarily but there are now several new scientific discoveries that have essentially negated the effect of meat on our evolution. Brain growth is now attributed to our consumption of fibrous carbohydrates. We ate starch from roots and plants. This is what provided our brains with the enormous amounts of glucose they now rely on. Meat was hunted but the gathering was where it was all at. And while fasting is miraculous, whole food plant based diets are also miraculous. It is the only diet that, much like fasting, reverses most lifestyle induced diseases. It is the only diet where you actively heal. Every other diet falls short, Mediterranean, Dash, Paleo, etc…
It is also counter intuitive to recommend eating meat when Dr. Jamnadas both understands how little protein we actually need and that all food contains protein. A diet of fruits, vegetables, and starches (whole grains, legumes, potatoes, etc.) meets our protein needs without the need to have a chunk of flesh, a scoop of processed powder, or the mammary excretion of another mammal. Low protein diets are associated with longevity.
The last item to point out is the sketchy recommendation to break a fast with bone broth. Bone broth may be the latest craze but it does not make it a healthy food choice. Bones store minerals but they also store heavy metals and toxins. Chicken bone broth exceeds acceptable levels of compounds such as arsenic and lead. Yes, even that organic and supposedly uncaged bird is full of heavy metal. If you want to hear about the benefits of fasting, Dr. Jamnadas’s lectures are fascinating because he is so passionate about the discovery of how fasting can heal. But if you want to truly reap the benefits of a true fast (with no coffee/tea/broth/salt/etc.) and to use it as a stepping stone to a whole food plant based diet, read the books or watch the lectures of those doctors who have extensive clinical practice in the realm of fasting for health like Dr. Alan Goldhammer, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and Dr. Michael Klapper.