…is that two people can look at the same study and come to wildly different conclusions. For instance, I recently had a commenter on my facebook page link me to this study to support his contention that fasting was good for the human body.
The study in a nutshell: researchers put 11 people on a starvation protocol and measured their metabolic response. The protocol was simple: no caloric intake for 84 hours. The results showed that catecholamine (stress hormone) levels increased and drove an increase in resting energy expenditure that continued for 3 days before it started to subside on the 4th day. All subjects lost weight, as would be expected with complete cessation of food intake plus a stress-hormone driven increase in metabolic rate.
If one holds the fundamental assumption that increased metabolic rate is good and desirable, regardless of context, then sure, this study can be interpreted as evidence to support fasting.
I don’t hold that fundamental assumption. I look at this study and see a red flag. The body releases stress hormones to prime the body for food seeking behavior. What are the long-term consequences of purposely (and repeatedly, as many people do) driving up stress hormone levels? I have some thoughts on that that I’ll share in an upcoming blog post, but for now, the point I want to make today is that weight loss and fat loss are contextual. We do ourselves a huge disservice to internalize the assumption that these things are inherently good, and that any technique that produces them is by extension also good. Context is important, and long-term outcomes need to be considered.