Why This World-Famous Cardiologist Fasts From January Until June

Photo: Duet Postscriptum

Intermittent fasting has sparked a lot of interest this year, from doctors to researchers to people just trying to balance their blood sugar and free themselves from food. So when we sat down with Dr. Steven Gundry—a cardiologist, heart surgeon, researcher, and the author of two best-selling books—we weren't surprised when it came up. We were, however, surprised to learn that he fasts for five months of the year, a protocol that is totally new to us. It got us thinking a lot about reconnecting with nature and getting in touch with what our bodies really need.

Getting to know Dr. Gundry and his extreme fasting protocol.

In his most recent book The Plant Paradox, Dr. Gundry calls an entire group of plant proteins—called lectins—into question, linking their consumption to weight gain and gut health issues. The book was nothing short of controversial, Gundry himself admitting that "Trust me, 12 years ago, if I was reading my own book claiming that one tiny plant protein—in collaboration with other disrupters—was the cause of so much illness...I would have thrown it in the trash." In other words: He's someone who likes to think for himself and think outside of the box.

That's why when he said he fasts from January until June, we weren't all that surprised. But what does this mean, exactly? It doesn't mean he goes without food completely, although he did make sure to inform us that humans can go up to 60 days on water alone. Instead, from January 1 until June 1, he doesn't eat breakfast or lunch, and all of his calories for the day are consumed between 6 and 8 p.m. He's been doing this for the last 10 years and plans to make 2018 the 11th.

Understanding the annual biological clock.

If this seems just a little bit crazy to you, you're not alone. He explains it like this: We have a 24-hour biological clock, that regulates our body's sleep-wake cycle. But we also have a yearly clock, and in the past, humans always experienced a period of growth and one of regression. He packs on some weight in the summer and fall and then drops that weight in the spring, just like our ancestors used to. During this time of food deprivation, he explains that his "cells clean house and go through apoptosis. If we don't do this, we are constantly in a state of growth—we don’t have a system of putting on the breaks. We never tell cells that aren’t pulling their own weight to die." He believes this plays a critical role in the cancer epidemic, a disease that is characterized by cellular growth that has spun totally out of control.

Come June, he still doesn't eat breakfast, but he does start adding in a half cup of nuts and a salad at lunch. At the end of the summer, he adds berries to the list, to cycle with the seasons. Just like lectins, at first this seems extreme. But once he explains his reasoning, it's hard not to feel on board—or at least intrigued enough to hear more. We can't say we'll be abandoning our inflammation-fighting daily 12-hour fast for a two-hour eating window five months out of the year, but we do have a newfound appreciation for the way our ancestors lived and how far we can stretch the therapeutic properties of fasting.

If you're intrigued by fasting—but not ready to fast for five months of the year—here are some beginner plans to get you started.

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