Lack Of “Sleep” Damaging Health

Sleep myths ‘damaging your health’

Widely held myths about sleep are damaging our health and our mood, as well as shortening our lives, say researchers.

A team at New York University trawled the internet to find the most common claims about a good night’s kip.

Then, in a study published in the journal Sleep Health, they matched the claims to the best scientific evidence.

They hope that dispelling sleep myths will improve people’s physical and mental health and well-being.

So, how many are you guilty of?

Myth 1 – You can cope on less than five hours’ sleep

This is the myth that just won’t go away.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously had a brief four hours a night. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made similar claims, and swapping hours in bed for extra time in the office is not uncommon in tales of business or entrepreneurial success.

Yet the researchers said the belief that less than five hours’ shut-eye was healthy, was one of the most damaging myths to health.

“We have extensive evidence to show sleeping five hours or less consistently, increases your risk greatly for adverse health consequences,” said researcher Dr Rebecca Robbins.


These included cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, and shorter life expectancy.

Instead, she recommends everyone should aim for a consistent seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

Thatcher: Can people get by on four hours’ sleep?

Myth 2 – Alcohol before bed boosts your sleep

The relaxing nightcap is a myth, says the team, whether it’s a glass of wine, a dram of whisky or a bottle of beer.

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

“It may help you fall asleep, but it dramatically reduces the quality of your rest that night,” said Dr Robbins.

It particularly disrupts your REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, which is important for memory and learning.

So yes, you will have slept and may have nodded off more easily, but some of the benefits of sleep are lost.

Alcohol is also a diuretic, so you may find yourself having to deal with a full bladder in the middle of the night too.

Myth 3 – Watching TV in bed helps you relax

Have you ever thought “I need to wind down before bed, I’m going to watch some TV”?

Well, the latest Brexit twists and turns on the BBC News at Ten might be bad for sleep.

Dr Robbins argues: “Often if we’re watching the television it’s the nightly news… it’s something that’s going to cause you insomnia or stress right before bed when we’re trying to power down and relax.”

And as for Game of Thrones, it’s hard to argue the Red Wedding was relaxing.

The other issue with TV – along with smartphones and tablets – is they produce blue light, which can delay the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Will the light from your phone kill you?

Myth 4 – If you’re struggling to sleep, stay in bed

You’ve spent so long trying to nod off you’ve managed to count all the sheep in New Zealand (that’s about 28 million).

So what should you do next? The answer is not to keep trying.

“We start to associate our bed with insomnia,” said Dr Robbins.

“It does take the healthy sleeper about 15 minutes to fall asleep, but much longer than that… make sure to get out of bed, change the environment and do something that’s mindless.”

Her tip – go fold some socks.

Myth 5 – Hitting the snooze button

Who isn’t guilty of reaching for the snooze button on their phone, thinking that extra six minutes in bed is going to make all the difference?

But the research team says that when the alarm goes off, we should just get up.

woman asleep holding mobile phoneImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Dr Robbins said: “Realise you will be a bit groggy – all of us are – but resist the temptation to snooze.

“Your body will go back to sleep, but it will be very light, low-quality sleep.”

Instead the advice is to throw open the curtains and expose yourself to as much bright light as possible.

Myth 6 – Snoring is always harmless

Snoring can be harmless, but it can also be a sign of the disorder sleep apnoea.

This causes the walls of the throat to relax and narrow during sleep, and can briefly stop people breathing.

People with the condition are more likely to develop high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat and have a heart attack or a stroke.

One of the warning signs is loud snoring.

NHS: Obstructive sleep apnoea

Dr Robbins concludes: “Sleep is one of the most important things we can all do tonight to improve our health, our mood, our wellbeing and our longevity.”

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Prince Harry & Oprah Teaming Up !


By Katie Kindelan FROM GMA

ROYAL FAMILY Prince Harry is co-producing a new series with Oprah Winfrey


She is the “queen of talk” and he is a member of Britain’s royal family.

Now Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry are teaming up on a new documentary series for Apple.

The series will focus on mental health, Kensington Palace announced Wednesday.

“The multi-part documentary series will focus on both mental illness and mental wellness, inspiring viewers to have an honest conversation about the challenges each of us faces, and how to equip ourselves with the tools to thrive, rather than to simply survive,” the palace said in a statement. “This commitment builds on the duke’s long-standing work on issues and initiatives regarding mental health, that has seen him share his personal experience and advocate for those who silently suffer, to empower them to get the help and support they deserve.”

Harry, 34, has made mental health a top priority in his royal charitable work.

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex listens to the Youth Ambassadors Mental Health Champions during a visit to YMCA South Ealing in west London on April 3, 2019.

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty ImagesBritain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex listens to the Youth Ambassadors Mental Health Champions during a visit to YMCA South Ealing in west London on April 3, 2019.

He and his wife, Duchess Meghan, along with Prince William and Duchess Kate, lead Heads Together, a mental health initiativesupported by The Royal Foundation. The initiative is focused on ending the stigma surrounding mental illness.Editor’s Picks

Harry has spoken openly in recent years about needing therapy after the death of his mother, the late Princess Diana. He has also worked to change the conversation on mental health for members of the military through his work with the Invictus Games Foundation and the Endeavour Fund.(MORE: #ParentGoals: Looking back at Harry and Meghan’s cutest moments with kids)

Harry said in a statement that he is “incredibly proud” to be working with Winfrey on the series. He also confirmed the pair have been developing the project together for “several months.”

Apple announced its multi-year partnership with Winfrey to produce original programming last June. The talk show host was a guest at Prince Harry and Meghan’s star-studded wedding in May.

Oprah Winfrey arrives at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle before the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, May 19, 2018, in Windsor, England.

Getty ImagesOprah Winfrey arrives at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle before the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, May 19, 2018, in Windsor, England.

“I truly believe that good mental health – mental fitness – is the key to powerful leadership, productive communities and a purpose-driven self. It is a huge responsibility to get this right as we bring you the facts, the science and the awareness of a subject that is so relevant during these times,” Harry said in the statement.

He continued, “Our hope is that this series will be positive, enlightening and inclusive – sharing global stories of unparalleled human spirit fighting back from the darkest places, and the opportunity for us to understand ourselves and those around us better.”



Fasting and Weight Loss 2019

Fasting Is More Than A Fad

Fasting may be more than a fad diet

Fasting might seem like just another diet trend, but the science behind it is revealing some surprising health benefits.

Lucas Zarebinski

So much was happening, it was hard to take it all in.

Just over a year ago, Alex Allen moved across the country to San Francisco. He’d landed a job as a software engineer, achieving his dream of working in a city at the center of the tech industry. The 24-year-old loved the area’s open culture and mild, consistent weather. He wanted to make the most of his adopted city.

But socializing inevitably posed a problem. Sometimes, dinner with new friends meant he sipped water as he watched them chow down.

In the last couple of years, he’d started a fasting diet — 16 hours of fasting and then eating within an eight-hour window each day. It had been a wake-up call for his body. In his late teens and early 20s, he lifted weights regularly, but he also packed on a lot of fat. He was over 200 pounds, and he was tired of it.

So he tried a 16-hour fast, a popular method called 16:8. He experimented with another popular regimen, 20:4, eating within a four-hour window of a 24-hour day. Like a bodybuilder switching to heavier barbells, Allen eventually mixed in daylong fasts to his routine. His weight dropped to 166 pounds within four months.

He stuck to his diet in San Francisco but realized he’d have to just get through that part of sitting down to a meal with people. “It was a bit odd at first,” says Allen. “But I don’t mind doing it anymore. It starts a lot of conversations.”

Fasting began as a way for him to lose flab. It soon became a way of life. “Nowadays, I do it for the other health benefits and just because it makes me feel great,” says Allen. Those benefits are more energy, inner calm and mental clarity. “I can’t imagine fasting not being part of my routine for the rest of my life.”

Allen is part of a growing trend that started several years ago, when fasting caught the public’s attention as a weight-loss strategy. Advocates say the practice is easier to stick to than other diet plans. But that alone doesn’t account for its staying power. Fasting also has its share of clinical studies to back it up.

Research shows it’s an effective weight-loss strategy and also has potential to improve health for people of normal weight. Regular practice may delay the onset of age-related diseases, such as cancer, Type 2 diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. It also appears to enhance learning and memory, and can increase life span.

In addition, fasting is being explored as a supplemental treatment for brain injury, various cancers and metabolic syndrome. Most of these results are preliminary, and many of them are conclusions from animal studies.

Lucas Zarebinski

Still, Valter Longo, a cell biologist and fasting researcher at the University of Southern California, says fasting is the body’s built-in fixer. It holds the power to heal. “But now, because we eat all the time, that inner repair has been eliminated,” he says. “We are not benefiting anymore from this ability.”

Fasting is not the first dietary approach to excite researchers. Before fasting, there was caloric restriction, or CR. The methods have much in common. Overall, they both drastically reduce energy intake and bring about similar health benefits. They’re like siblings in a way, especially since fasting studies emerged from work on CR. And now, many former CR researchers are exploring fasting, often setting the two against each other in the lab.

Although CR never caught on with the public like fasting has, it remains an important dietary experiment for scientists studying the biology of aging. To better understand today’s fascination with fasting, we first need the skinny on CR.

120 or Bust

Scientists have studied CR for 100 years. In that time, they have realized that lab animals whose daily energy intake was restricted by 20 to 40 percent lived longer and had a lower chance of chronic illness and disease. It was a baffling revelation: Eating less than the body apparently needs is a healthy strategy.

Up through the 1980s, researchers carried out the majority of CR experiments only on yeast, flies, mice and rats. An important question remained: Would CR work in humans?

That opportunity came by chance in 1991, when eight scientists entered Biosphere 2, an enclosed artificial ecological system near Tucson, Arizona. Their mission was to live for two years on food grown within the domed habitat to glean information for future biosphere space colonies.

In 1991, eight scientists aimed to live for two years in Arizona’s Biosphere 2, surviving off food grown in the domed facility.
Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Getty Images

Physician Roy Walford was one of the scientists. He also happened to be a CR devotee and had recently written a book on living to the age of 120 by following the regimen. Soon after entering, the team realized the food they raised in the dome wouldn’t be enough to sustain them. So Walford implemented an impromptu CR experiment. The four men and four women reduced their approximate calorie intake by up to 30 percent. It was essentially the first human study of CR and its effects.

In a paper published in 2002 on the pseudo-experiment, Walford and colleagues reported that the Biosphere staff had been in excellent health. Nearly all of them lowered their blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and other health measures. Still, their skeletal appearance was shocking. “They were malnourished, and they didn’t look healthy,” says Eric Ravussin, a metabolic researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Biosphere 2 helped lay the groundwork for an unprecedented study. In 2008, Ravussin and collaborators put together the first rigorous clinical human trial of CR, called Calerie.

Scientists at Biosphere 2 soon realized supplies wouldn’t last and cut their daily caloric intake by up to 30 percent, in the first impromptu CR quasi-experiment in humans. Roy Walford, one of the Biosphere residents, led the effort. His weight dropped from 150 (right) to 119 (left).
Walford et al./The Journals of Gerontology Series A, 1 June 2002

The trial, which aimed to investigate how food deprivation affects the aging process, involved 218 normal and slightly overweight men and women between the ages of 21 and 51. Of the group, 143 of them were tasked with following CR, eating 25 percent fewer calories than usual — a decrease deemed feasible based on animal studies. They were to keep this regimen for two years with help from a behavioral intervention team and dietitians to make sure they were getting basic nutrition.

Most people in the CR group completed the trial, but their average drop in calories was just 12 percent. It didn’t matter, though. Blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, insulin and other biomarkers fell, possibly lowering their risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

After the trial, another research group fed the Calerie biomarker data into age-estimation algorithms; they wanted to see whether CR might have had an effect on longevity. The conclusion was striking: During the study period, the people following CR had aged more slowly than those in the control group.

This mirrored some of what researchers were finding in non-human primates. Rhesus monkeys share 93 percent of their genetic makeup with humans and usually live to about 26 in captivity. In one study on 76 rhesus monkeys that’s been running since 1989 at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, monkeys on a 30 percent calorie cut lived, on average, two to three years longer than control monkeys. Another ongoing study, started in 1987 by the National Institute on Aging on 121 rhesus monkeys, hasn’t detected the same boost to longevity. But CR has worked remarkably well for the 10 males that started the diet later in life. At least four have lived past age 40, including one to 43 — a record for the species.

As Old as Life Itself

Despite the data from studies, scientists still aren’t completely sure how and why CR works. It might be an adaptation that developed billions of years ago in microorganisms trying to survive when food was scarce. Studies on E. coli show that when switched from a nutrient-rich broth to zero nutrients, the bacteria live four times longer.

It appears that restricting calories activates genes that direct cells to preserve resources. Rather than grow and divide, cells in famine mode are, in effect, stalled. In this state, they are mostly resistant to disease and stress and enter into autophagy, a process of cleaning out dead or toxic cell matter and repairing and recycling damaged components.

On top of that, in mammals, production of a hormone that’s key to cellular growth, called IGF-1, drops, according to several papers. The hormone helps youngsters grow tall and strong, but in adults, it increases cancer risk and accelerates aging when not suppressed.

Cellular Cleanup Crew
Fasting and caloric restriction both can ramp up autophagy, a kind of cellular housekeeping. When cells are in famine mode and don’t have to break down food, they pause their usual tasks and stop dividing. Instead, they work on repairing and recycling damaged components, and cleaning out dead or harmful cell matter.
Alison Mackey/Discover

Jeffrey Peipert wasn’t necessarily after any potential anti-aging benefits when he enrolled in the Calerie trial. And he wasn’t purely aiming to advance the research on cellular aging. He mostly wanted to lose weight.

Peipert was 48, stood at 5 feet, 5 inches, and weighed 174 pounds. During the trial, he cut his daily food intake from 3,300 to 2,475 calories, and his weight dropped to 147 pounds. His health biomarkers, especially his blood pressure, were excellent. “It was a remarkable drop in blood pressure. That taught me that, for our health, if we were just a little thinner, we’d be better off,” says Peipert, a gynecologist and researcher at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

The big takeaway from Calerie, Longo says, is that the biomarkers of health are controllable through weight loss. “So if your doctor is telling you that you need drugs to control these things, that’s not true,” he says.

Not All Magic

Although CR might be metabolic magic, it’s no magic bullet. Some mice bred to carry certain genes for lab research don’t benefit from it, and it actually shortens life in other genetically modified mice. The deprivation can weaken the immune system of very young and very old animals, making them susceptible to disease. And although cutting calories by 25 percent has been standard, it’s not clear if that’s best for animals and humans.

As with mice, people react differently to food deprivation. In recent years, scientists have learned that genetics, diet composition (amount of carbs, protein and fats), regular exercise and other factors play a role in CR’s effectiveness.

Peipert’s experience in the Calerie trial points to these issues. Despite his banner biomarkers, he had trouble sleeping, a reduced libido, low energy and was hungry most of the time. “I used to love to garden,” says Peipert, now 57. But during the trial, “I was wheeling a wheelbarrow around full of dirt, and I felt weak. I wasn’t myself.”

These types of side effects weren’t more common in CR dieters overall, but several people had to pull out of the study because of safety concerns. Noted side effects of CR are chronic loss of bone density and lean body mass, and excessive weight loss. Some CR dieters have body mass indexes in the teens, which suggest malnutrition and frailty, Longo says.

CR can lead to psychological issues, too. These were minimal in the Calerie trial, but Ravussin says that’s likely because people were screened for predispositions: food fantasies, irritability and social isolation, he says. Some of the Biosphere 2 scientists said they became prickly and obsessed about food during their 21-month deprivation.

Kelly Vitousek, a psychologist at the University of Hawaii who has written review papers on CR, says these problems make sense from an evolutionary perspective; food is one of our top priorities. “Don’t waste your time on other stuff,” she says. “Think food, not about socializing, not about sex. Be preoccupied with food. Obtain it.”

During the Biosphere 2 experience and the Calerie trial, some researchers hoped CR would become a viable regimen. But the enthusiasm has significantly cooled. While side effects were an issue, people’s inability to stick to a significantly reduced calorie load every day was the hammer blow. At this point, fasting was CR’s heir apparent: It seems eating nothing on occasion might be better than eating less all the time.

Lucas Zarebinski

Fasting Redux

Fasting has deep roots in human culture. It’s been a practice within various religions for millennia, and the ancient Greeks marveled at its impact on the body and mind. For centuries, doctors noticed it could reduce epileptic seizures. Paracelsus, a 16th-century German-Swiss physician, called it “the physician within.”

But it wasn’t until the 1940s that the first experiments began as an outgrowth of CR studies. Researchers started withholding food from lab animals on alternate days, says Michelle Harvie, a research dietitian in Manchester, England. And in 1946, The Journal of Nutrition published the first study on fasting, showing that rats deprived of food every third day lived longer and were less likely to develop tumors than control animals. Later work showed that fasting spurs metabolic changes similar to those of CR.

By the 2000s, some fasting studies were showing better results than CR. In a 2003 experiment, Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging, found that mice fed on alternate days were healthier than mice that were calorie-restricted by 40 percent.

In 2012, the idea of fasting was popularized when BBC commentator Michael Mosley aired a popular television documentary about the diet. A best-selling book, The Fast Diet, followed the next year.

As fasting has grown in popularity, scientists and nutritionists have developed different methods of the practice. Some, such as Allen, practice time-restricted feeding, like the 20:4 regimen. Some push the approach to 23:1, cramming all their eating into one hour of a 24-hour day. Other approaches space out fasting days throughout the week, such as the 5:2 method — two days of fasting over seven days. Some enthusiasts supplement their practice with dayslong fasts.

Although people normally think of fasting as only consuming water, the most popular of these plans does allow for calories on “fast” days — just not enough to impede the practice’s healthy physiological effects, says Mattson.

In 2012, Carolyn Corbin, who lives in the Channel Islands, got some firsthand experience with fasting’s flexibility. At 5 feet, 2 inches tall and 159 pounds, Corbin was overweight, with a BMI of 29.1. After seeing Mosley’s BBC show, she took up the 5:2 regimen, eating 500 calories two days a week and eating normally the rest of the time. She soon switched to water-only fasts two days a week. Since taking up the practice, the 65-year-old has lost 35 pounds and kept it off. “Forget calorie counting, diet food and diet drinks,” Corbin says. “Fasting for weight loss works.”

And there’s more than anecdotal experience like Corbin’s that fasting can help people lose weight. In a one-year study, 100 obese adults ages 18 to 64 were assigned to three groups. One group practiced alternate-day fasting, eating 75 percent fewer calories every other day; another group followed CR, with a 25 percent calorie restriction every day; the rest were in a control group. Compared with the control group, the fasters averaged 6 percent weight loss, and those assigned to CR averaged about 5 percent, according to the 2017 paper in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Even with these results, one of the concerns with fasting is that people will binge on non-fast days. But the results of two months-long trials, published in 2018 in the journal Food Science & Nutrition, showed that dieters, specifically those following 5:2, didn’t binge. “When you impose a two-day 70 percent calorie restriction, what they do on the natural days is eat about 25 percent less,” says Harvie, one of the authors of the study and a co-developer of the 5:2 diet. “And that is why the diet is so effective.”


Fast Lane

Popular Water-Only or Low-Calorie (500-600) Fasting Plans:

1. Time-restricted feeding: Eating within a specific window of time in a 24-hour period. The most popular is 18:6, eating only during a six-hour period of a 24-hour day. Other variations are 20:4, 22:2 and 23:1.
2. Alternate-day fasting: Fasting every other day.
3. Intermittent fasting: Fasting one day or several days a week. Most popular is 5:2 — eating normally five days a week, fasting two days a week.

How Low Can Calories Go? 
People can live days with no food and water, and weeks or several months consuming only water. In lab animals, when calorie intake is cut by more than 50 percent, they eventually die of complications from starvation. In the final stages of starvation, the body, depleted of glucose and fatty acids, turns to muscle protein for energy. Humans die when their body mass index (BMI) is around 12.

Gender Average calorie requirements Low but sustainable: 25% restriction Danger zone: 40% restriction Fatal BMI
Men 2,500 1,875 1,500 13
Women 2,000 1,500 1,200 11

BMI Ranges for Adults 
Body mass index, or BMI, uses height and weight to determine how healthy a person’s weight is. (To calculate, multiply weight in pounds by 703, divide by height in inches, then divide again by height in inches.) Though it doesn’t measure body fat, BMI has been shown to correlate closely with metabolic and disease risks. In general, health risks rise for people with BMIs of 30 and above or below 18.5.

Alison Mackey/Discover

The Ketone Connection

Is fasting better at improving people’s health than CR? It’s far from clear. However, rodent experiments suggest it might be better at enhancing cognition.For years, researchers have seen mice and rats perform well on cognitive tests when famished. While on alternate-day fasting, rodents improve their endurance, senses, memory and ability to learn.

So what accounts for this heightened mental state? It seems fasting triggers a dramatic switch in the body’s metabolism, according to a paper Mattson and colleagues published in February in the experimental biology journal FASEB. In humans, fasting for 12 hours or more drops the levels of glycogen, a form of cellular glucose. Like changing to a backup gas tank, the body switches from glucose to fatty acids, a more efficient fuel. The switch generates the production of ketones, which are energy molecules that are made in the liver. “When the fats are mobilized and used to produce ketones, we think that is a key factor in accruing the health benefits,” says Mattson.

One type of ketone flooding the brain is beta-hydroxybutyrate, or BHB. According to a paper published in February in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, BHB stimulates memory, learning and the cellular housekeeping process of autophagy in mice. BHB also triggers neurons, including those in the hippocampus, a memory center in the brain, to release what’s called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, a protein that is important for learning, memory and improved mood. CR doesn’t generate these levels of ketones because glucose stores are never empty.

Mattson points out that, from an evolutionary perspective, the brain power that fasting generates makes sense. Mammals typically go days without food, often hunting on an empty belly. Semi-starved animals with enhanced smarts and energy would be more likely to obtain food and live another day. “If you are that wolf or lion, now a week with no food, you better be able to focus your mind and concentrate on what you need to do to get food,” he says.

Ketones might also help explain several mysteries surrounding brain injuries and disorders. For instance, fasting rodents recover more fully from brain trauma and spinal cord injury, according to several studies.

Throwing A Metabolic Switch
The body can use three types of fuel: carbohydrates, protein and fats.
Alison Mackey/Discover

Feast or Fad?

But fasting comes with its own caveats: a higher risk of binge eating, low blood pressure, irritability and headaches. The latter two tend to go away after a few weeks, as the body adjusts to fewer calories. Still, dayslong fasts can cause fainting spells. Doctors recommend it only under the guidance of a physician.

Ravussin, the CR researcher, isn’t convinced fasting offers more benefits than CR, or that ketones are as powerful as Mattson and Longo say. “Ketones are a good thing to curb your appetite, but are they a good thing as far as cellular health?” he asks. “I have not seen convincing data that says yes.”

Harvie believes fasting might be here to stay, partly because it’s flexible. People can choose a fasting practice and nutrient plan that fits their lifestyle, she says. “We twitter on about which diets are better. But at the end of the day, a diet is only as good as the person who follows it,” says Harvie. “For some people, the 5:2 will be perfect, and for others, it will be absolutely awful.”

Vitousek, the psychologist, has seen this kind of enthusiasm before — and it was for CR. Caloric restriction never reached fasting’s popularity, but it had its share of lay followers in the 2000s, when she got a chance to talk with members of a group practicing it. Initially, they were excited and motivated. Then, like most dieters, the majority began to fall away. Some who had done CR for years simply couldn’t do it anymore. “You can pretty much take that to the bank,” Vitousek says of dieters’ waning enthusiasm. “That’s why we have these cyclical waves.”

For Peipert, it’s been a seesaw journey. He’s always struggled with his weight, and obesity runs in his family. A few years after the Calerie trial, he regained all the weight he’d lost, plus 6 pounds. “That kind of drastic calorie reduction for two years is probably not a sustainable or good plan for lifelong weight loss,” he says.

When fasting emerged as a diet, Peipert was skeptical. But in March, he started the 5:2 regimen. It was hard at first, he says, but by midsummer, he’d lost 9 pounds. He hopes to lose 10 to 15 more. “It has helped me control my hunger,” says Peipert. And with his experience of CR still on his mind, “No side effects.”


Fasting Shortcuts

Even though fasting and caloric restriction can offer health benefits, both require eating less — something unappealing to most people. So scientists and nutritionists have experimented with ways to mimic the biochemical and physiological effects brought about by sustained periods of food deprivation.

Keto Diets
Ketosis occurs when the body, deprived of food for 12 hours or more, switches its energy source from carbs and glucose to fatty acids. The process generates ketone bodies that may have healthy effects.

Keto diets, composed of low-carb, high-protein and high-fat foods, can also spark this metabolic switch. Since the 1920s, keto diets have been used in medicine to reduce epileptic seizures. More recently, the diets have supplemented standard treatments for Type 2 diabetes and cancer, with promising results.

Over the last few years, keto diets have gained mainstream popularity. Some celebrities and sports stars embrace them, and people who fast use the regimen to further push their body into ketosis.

But followers beware, says nutrition researcher Michelle Harvie. Dieters going keto tend to lose weight, but the diets are low in fiber and high in saturated fat, which is a risk for cardiovascular disease. “And there is increasing evidence that its effect on the gut microbiome is pretty adverse,” says Harvie. “The gut microbiome is a poorly understood but potentially important part of our metabolic health. And if you mess that up, you’re in trouble.”

Fasting-Mimicking Diet
Valter Longo, a cell biologist at the University of Southern California, has developed ProLon, a five-day diet that mimics a five-day fast, but without loss of essential nutrients. It’s an all-vegan diet with high unsaturated fat (think almonds, avocados and peanut butter), low sugar and low protein.

In a 2017 study in Science Translational Medicine, 71 participants who completed the fasting-mimicking diet showed health benefits including weight loss, lower blood pressure and a drop in levels of the hormone IGF-1, which primarily stimulates growth but also plays a role in regulating blood glucose levels. And depending on how healthy you are, you may not need to stick to the diet too long. For instance, Longo says a healthy athlete may need to do it only twice a year, while someone who’s overweight may need to continue with it until they see the improvements they want.

Medicines that treat chronic medical conditions, like epilepsy and Type 2 diabetes, are being explored to mimic fasting. The major players are rapamycin, metformin, resveratrol and hydroxycitrate. The drugs show promise, but also have downsides.

Rapamycin, for example, tricks cells into thinking they’re nutrient-deprived, sparking the cellular rejuvenation seen in fasting, but it also suppresses the immune system. That’s helpful in medical scenarios, such as preventing organ rejection after a transplant or to treat autoimmune diseases, but not so great for the average dieter.

‘Alexa ‘Adds New Medical Skills 2019

‘Alexa ‘Adds New Medical Skills

‘Alexa, find me a doctor’: Amazon Alexa adds new medical skills

  • Amazon Alexa is now HIPAA compliant, meaning it can work with health developers that manage protected health information.
  • That’s a big step for Amazon as it moves into the health space.
  • The company said it worked with partners on six new health skills, which help people make doctor’s appointments and check their health status.
CNBC Tech: Amazon Echo Plus 6
The Echo Plus is about the size of a half-used roll of paper towels
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Amazon’s voice assistant can now manage people’s sensitive health information, which represents an important step for the company into the $3.5 trillion health care sector.

As of Thursday, consumers will be able to use about half a dozen new Alexa health skills to ask questions such as “Alexa, pull up my blood glucose readings” or “Alexa, find me a doctor,” and receive a prompt response from the voice assistant.

Amazon is able to add these skills because Amazon can now sign business associate agreements with health providers under HIPAA, which means third-party health developers who follow certain guidelines can meet the rules and requirements that govern how sensitive health information is transmitted and received. HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is designed to protect patients in cases where their personal health information is shared with a health care organization, like a hospital.

Voice technology has been heralded as a major breakthrough for the health field, particularly for seniors, kids and those with mobility problems. As a result, Amazon, and its rival Alphabet, have been increasingly focused on the needs of these populations, who view voice assistant devices as an important way to manage their medications, communicate with loved ones, and alert emergency services.

Amazon Alexa’s health and wellness team has been working for months on HIPAA compliance, and its team includes Missy Krasner, who previously ran Box’s health care efforts, and Rachel Jiang, who previously worked at Microsoft and Facebook. Jiang announced via the Alexa developer blog that six health partners have been selected for the invitation-only program, and it expects to grow that number in the coming months.

“These new skills are designed to help customers manage a variety of healthcare needs at home simply using voice – whether it’s booking a medical appointment, accessing hospital post-discharge instructions, checking on the status of a prescription delivery, and more,” Jiang wrote in the post.

New skills

Since it introduced Alexa, Amazon has seen an uptick in interest in its voice assistant technology from the health sector.

One example is Boston Children’s Hospital, which built a skill called KidsMD, that offers generalized wellness advice.

Now, Boston Children’s has a new HIPAA-compliant skill dubbed “ERAS” for kids and their families that are discharged from the hospital. Through Alexa’s voice assistant, patients and caregivers can ask specific questions about their case from the care team, and doctors can remotely check in on the child’s recovery process.

Another company selected for the program is Livongo, a digital health start-up that works with employers to help them manage workers with chronic medical conditions. The company developed a skill for people with diabetes that use connected glucometers to ask about their blood sugar levels. A user might say something like, “Alexa, ask Livongo what my my blood glucose reading was from this morning” to get a quick response.

Livongo’s president Jenny Schneider told CNBC that there are lots of reasons she expects users to embrace voice technologies, versus SMS messaging or other platforms: “Some of those people might have difficulty reading, or they just have busy lives and it’s just an easy option,” she said. The company estimates that about 20,000 of its customers already have an Alexa device in their home.

Other partners building Alexa health skills include Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefits manager, and Cigna, a health insurer that merged with Express Scripts last year. That suggests Amazon might look to work with Express Scripts as it moves more deeply into the pharmacy sector following its acquisition of Internet pharmacy company PillPack in the summer of 2018, although that remains to be seen.

Express Scripts is building a way for members to check the status of their home delivery prescription, while Cigna described their skill as helping their members “manage health improvement goals.” There’s also a skill from Providence St. Joseph Health, a Seattle health system, for people to find an urgent care center or schedule an appointment, and a similar one from Atrium Health, a health system across North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

The developers behind these skills pointed to the trend of bringing health to the home, which represents both a cheaper and more convenient option for the patient. It’s also a way for providers, including doctors and nurses, to monitor patients once they leave the home, which both gives them an opportunity to prevent costly readmissions to the hospital.

“We’re in a renaissance of voice technology and voice assistants in health care,” said John Brownstein, chief innovation officer for Boston Children’s Hospital. “It’s so appealing as there’s very little training, it’s low cost and convenient.”

WATCH: Is Amazon Alexa spying on you?

Is Amazon Alexa spying on you?

Google Doodle Honors Physicist Hedwig Kohn

Google Doodle Honors Physicist Hedwig Kohn

Google Doodle by Hamburg-based guest artist Carolin Löbbert

Google Doodle by Hamburg-based guest artist Carolin Löbbert

Step inside the science lab of the pioneering physicist Hedwig Kohn with a Google Doodle that celebrates her birthday, 132 years later.

Hamburg-based artist Carolin Löbbert pays tribute to the life and accomplishments of the scientist through sketches that gradually become more detailed and colorful, reflecting the progression of Kohn’s exceptional career.


Born in Breslau, which is now Wrocław, Poland on April 5, 1887, Kohn became one of only three women certified to teach physics at a German university before World War II. As a Jewish woman, Kohn was barred from her teaching position in 1933 when Germany’s Nazi regime started to remove Jews from government positions. But she did not give up. She continued her work by taking up research contracts in industrial physics.

In 1940, when it was clear she could no longer safely stay in Germany, she fled to the United States, where was able to pursue her dream of teaching at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina and Wellesley College in Massachusetts. In her basement lab, she mentored Ph.D. students in their research and developed her work in flame spectroscopy, a project she had started in 1912, a year before she received her doctorate.

After retiring from teaching in 1952, Kohn took on a research associate position at Duke University in North Carolina. Kohn’s work was published in 20 journals and a textbook that was used to introduce students to radiometry (the science of measuring electromagnetic radiation, including light) well into the 1960s.

She died in 1964 at the age of 77. Her work continues to be cited and her legacy as a resilient pioneer, who found opportunities at a time when they were scarce, will surely be remembered.

Correction, April 5

The original version of this story misstated whether Kohn’s work continues to be used. It is still cited today. The original version of this story also misstated the type of work Kohn did. She worked in flame spectroscopy, not flame spectronomy.

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