Fasting Information

Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. A fast may be total or partial concerning that from which one fasts, and may be prolonged or intermittent as to the period of fasting. Fasting practices may preclude sexual activity as well as food, in addition to refraining from eating certain types or groups of foods; for example, one might refrain from eating meat. A complete fast in its traditional definition is abstinence of all food and liquids.

In a medical context fasting may refer to the metabolic status of a person who has not eaten overnight, and to the metabolic state achieved after complete digestion and absorption of a meal. Several metabolic adjustments occur during fasting, and many medical diagnostic tests are standardized for fasting conditions. For most ordinary diagnostic purposes a person is assumed to be fasting after 8–12 hours. Many of the metabolic shifts of fasting begin as absorption of a meal is complete ; "post-absorptive state" is synonymous with this usage, in contrast to the "post-prandial" state of ongoing digestion. A diagnostic fast refers to prolonged fasting conducted under medical observation for investigation of a problem, usually hypoglycemia. Finally, extended fasting has been recommended as therapy for various conditions by physicians of most cultures, throughout history, from ancient to modern.

Glucose is the body's primary fuel source and is essential for the brain's functioning. When denied glucose for more than 4–8 hours, the body turns to the liver for glycogen, a storage form of glucose, to be used for fuel. A process called glycogenolysis converts glycogen into a usable form of fuel. At this point, the body also uses small amounts of protein to supplement this fuel. This fuel will last for up to 12 hours before the body needs to turn to glycogen stored in muscles, lasting for a few more days. If glucose is still denied at this point, muscle wasting is prevented by temporarily switching to fat as the fuel source, meaning fat is converted into ketone through catabolism. Ketones, while not sugars, can be used by the brain as a fuel source as long as glucose is denied.

Wikipedia, Fasting, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasting (as of Apr 1, 2010)

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