Continuous feeding is detrimental to health and longevity but skipping one to two meals every few days is a healthy behaviour. Until modern times, man had always survived on meagre food resources and for centuries, fasting was not a fad. In low energy environments without labour saving machines, fasting was a sensory trigger that was performed spontaneously until food was found.


We hardly skip a meal but often procrastinate about engaging in physical exercise and may go for weeks and even months without participating in any form of voluntary physical activity. Unless there are some underlying medical or psychological problems, no one hates food. Home or abroad, when Nigerians get together for owambe parties, the expectation is that the food must not only be plenty, it must be good, otherwise the occasion could serve as a reference for a disappointing social event for a long time. As individuals, we often want someone to affirm or justify our actions. Therefore, whenever I get asked about what time is too late to have dinner, I know without an iota of doubt that the question is not a desperate concern about the need to stop eating late, it is really about how late can I get away with eating. Yeah, it’s hard to pass on food. Interestingly, our desire to stay alive and procreate depend on the pleasurable act of eating and sex. For sure, if food tasted like everybody’s hated bitter medicines and sex was a painfully laborious task, no one would be overweight and there would be no need for family planning.

I might not have walked for months or weeks, but there is a high probability I might decline a request to go for a walk because it does not come with tangible reward. Conversely, if I had no access to food in the house and have to walk a mile or two for every meal to a cafeteria, walking long distances to that cafeteria would neither be voluntary nor obligatory but a spontaneous activity that I would be happy to perform every meal time because of the food reward. While hungry, our ancestors demonstrated remarkable cognitive skills with ability to plan and trek for a few or several miles in search of food, with little or nothing to drink. In other words, they were mentally sharp and physically active, while fasting for no guaranteed food. This contrasts with our habit of carrying all kinds of colourful sugary sport drinks for infrequent exercise in the name of hydration.

The burning of fats inappropriately deposited on the internal organs, followed by overall weight loss, improves the integrity of these organs. This includes increased insulin sensitivity in the skeletal muscle, liver and fatty tissue, thus promoting the normalisation of blood sugar and consequently preventing or improving metabolic diseases…


Muslims all over the world are about to finish fasting and other major religions prescribe fasting for spiritual sensitivity, as a way to humble the self. The ancient lifestyle alternately involved rest, when there was food and fast in search of food, but modern civilisation has almost eliminated muscle-derived energy in terms of locomotion and most people only engage in fasting purposely to lose weight. Fasting can be defined as voluntary abstinence from food or drink for 12 hours to three weeks. For instance, if you had dinner at 6 p.m. and you don’t each again until 12 p.m. the following day, that is 18 hours of fast. There are different kinds of fast but this article is an attempt to sensitise everyone about the need for fasting. Once the body enters the fasting state, it immediately goes into “hybrid” mode, with changes in nutrient handling by re-allocating stored energy in the same way you would make food from the scratch when running low on cash or have no time to go to the grocery store. In the absence of ingestive behaviour, the levels of blood insulin, which is the main storage hormone, drops and prompts the fatty tissue to release fat substrates. However, this may not be accompanied with significant weight loss for a short while because the body initially consumes the dangerous fats deposited on the internal organs such as liver, heart, kidneys, etc., before reaching for the fat depots under the skin.

The burning of fats inappropriately deposited on the internal organs, followed by overall weight loss, improves the integrity of these organs. This includes increased insulin sensitivity in the skeletal muscle, liver and fatty tissue, thus promoting the normalisation of blood sugar and consequently preventing or improving metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, etc. Low blood insulin, from fasting or exercise, also causes relaxation of blood vessels and contributes to a drop in blood pressure. Weight loss improves nutrient handling between the brain and other organs. For example, normal size fatty tissue has simultaneous actions on the brain, with secretion of a hormone called leptin to induce a sense of fullness following a meal or satiety and it secretes adiponectin to improve entrance of glucose and free fatty acids into the skeletal muscle to facilitate weight maintenance and energy balance.

…unregulated feeding promotes (non-stop) protein synthesis, unregulated cellular growth and possibly tumour or cancer, while fasting acts effectively to get rid of cellular junks. It is worth mentioning that eating or drinking in the name of detox may just be another excuse to eat, when fasting is perhaps the best detox there is.


Like exercise, fasting acts as a mild stress on every cell in the body, prompting each cell into self-preservation mode by triggering cell resilience and by extension resistance to diseases. Fasting sets off autophagy, a “housekeeping” process that gets rid of old cellular materials and unwanted proteins, which have been implicated in neurogenerative ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and even cancer. In other words, unregulated feeding promotes (non-stop) protein synthesis, unregulated cellular growth and possibly tumour or cancer, while fasting acts effectively to get rid of cellular junks. It is worth mentioning that eating or drinking in the name of detox may just be another excuse to eat, when fasting is perhaps the best detox there is.

Continuous feeding is detrimental to health and longevity but skipping one to two meals every few days is a healthy behaviour. Until modern times, man had always survived on meagre food resources and for centuries, fasting was not a fad. In low energy environments without labour saving machines, fasting was a sensory trigger that was performed spontaneously until food was found. Unlike exercise, fasting is not constrained by social and environmental factors of an unsafe neighbourhood, hot or cold weather, and better still, it costs nothing. However, those who have diabetes and are taking insulin shots or on a class of medications called insulin secretagogues, should seek the advice and supervision of their physician while fasting.

Mukaila Kareem, a doctor of physiotherapy and physical activity advocate, writes from the USA and can be reached through makkareem5@gmail.com