UK PM Rishi Sunak Fasts 36 Hours Every Week: We Ask Doctors if You Should Do It

Experts caution against such prolonged fasting without medical supervision.

3 min read

Hate Mondays? Now imagine starting your week with a 36-hour-long fast with no solid food. A nightmare to most, this is how UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak starts every week.

The head of state's eating habits sparked chatter online after the Sunday Times reported that he does not consume anything except water, tea, or black coffee from 5 pm on Sunday until 5 am the following Tuesday.

It's a way for him to stay "disciplined" and maintain a "balanced lifestyle after an indulgent weekend," Sunak was quoted as saying by the BBC.

Before you start wondering if you should be altering your meal plan too, hear these experts out.


What Are Experts Saying About the Regimen?

"In this form of calorie deficit, the body first starts burning carbohydrates reserve followed by burning fat reserves, resulting in overall weight loss," explains Dr Geetanjali Jaswal, an Ayurvedic doctor and sports and fitness nutritionist.

Dr Ambrish Mithal, Head of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Max Healthcare, New Delhi tells FIT, "Someone like Sunak likely has a whole team of nutritionists and fitness experts and does other things to keep fit. So to attribute his good health and physique to one diet fad and try to emulate it would be wrong."

Dr Shikha Sharma, Nutritionist and Founder of Nutriwel Health, an online nutrition advisory company of nutrition coaches, says that more than the fast itself, what concerns her is that he reportedly drinks tea and coffee during this time, which she says "is almost worse."

"We don't ever recommend drinking tea on a fast because tea is constipating and it works as an astringent – something that constricts your tissues, and can lead to acidity. Coffee, too, can cause acidity, especially on an empty stomach."

'Fasting Isn't Starving': There Is a Right Way To Fast

Potential health benefits of fasting have been extensively explored for years. While research is promising, there is still much ambiguity and too many variables to consider.

FIT has also previously talked about the pros and cons of the polarising intermittent fasting.

Dr Jaswal says, "By abstaining from food for shorter duration, you are giving your overloaded digestive system a break and this can help in rekindling you digestion. Whereas longer-duration fasting focuses more on cleansing, healing, and regeneration."

Dr Mithal adds, "Prolonged fasting does help cells to regenerate. It is also thought that intermittent fasting of various types helps in reducing celular death."

"This has been shown in animal trials. However, as far as humans go there is no concrete evidence that fasting has any discernable health benefits, especially when compared to regular low caloric diet."
Dr Ambrish Mithal

Dr Sharma says that the fasting regimens that people undertake are often unscientific and dangerous.

She says, "In the vedic system there is a very strict protocol of what and how one should consume while fasting based on how your body functions."

Moreover, she adds, "Stopping eating completely for so long is as good as starvation, which is different from fasting done in a precise and controlled manner."

"A DIY (Do It Yourself) fast that is not done under medical supervision shouldn't last for more than 24 hours," says Dr Shikha Sharma, nutritionist and founder of Nutriwel Health, an online nutrition advisory company of nutrition coaches.

"If one is doing longer fasts, then it must be done only under medical supervision where your vitals (blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, etc) are constantly monitored."
Dr Shikha Sharma

'Fasting Isn't For Everyone'

"Long duration fasting is not recommended for everyone as it is associated with several adverse effects, including nausea, headache, dizziness, and fatigue. It may also lead to muscle loss and reduced physical activity in many individuals."
Dr Geetanjali Jaswal

According to Dr Jaswal, long-duration fasting is especially not recommended for:

  • Diabetics

  • Those prone to acidity

  • Those suffering from gastric ulcers

  • Individuals with eating disorders

  • Pregnant women

  • Individuals who are heavily into sports and perform strenuous workout

(Written with inputs from the Sunday Times and BBC.)

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