- Will Smith tried a 10-day fasting regimen to break his cycle of unhealthy eating, he said on an episode of the Facebook Watch series “Red Table Talk.”
- The 50-year-old actor said the disciplined fasting plan lowered his blood pressure enough to where he stopped taking a medication he’d been on for 10 years.
- A cardiologist said blood pressure was one factor in many concerns for good heart health and longevity. He recommends a balanced lifestyle instead of fasting.
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After getting into a routine of drinking vodka for lunch and eating enough carbs that his family started calling him “pudge muffin,” Will Smith decided to call an emergency family meeting about his eating habits.
In an episode of the Facebook Watch series “Red Table Talk,” the 50-year-old actor announced he tried a 10-day fasting regimen to reset his relationship to food and improve his health.
It’s unclear what exactly Smith’s fasting plan involved, since people use the term to describe everything from a liquids-only diet to limiting foods to certain times of day to abstaining from eating and drinking entirely. The actor said, however, that after four days he measured his blood pressure and noticed it had lowered – so significantly, in fact, that he stopped taking a blood-pressure medication he had relied on for a decade.
“I had the epiphany that I don’t know anything about food,” Smith said in the episode. “I couldn’t believe that I got to 50 years old without knowing you literally are what you eat.”
Fasting can lower blood pressure, but that’s not the only indicator of heart health
Blood pressure is a measure of how much force it takes to pump blood through the body. It’s related to the elasticity of your circulatory system – stiffer vessels require your heart to work harder to pump blood, explained Dr. Joshua Yamamoto, a cardiologist and medical director at the Foxhall Foundation.
“Blood pressure is a number, not a disease,” Yamamoto told Insider in an email. “What matters is whether or not we maintain good blood flow to every part of the body, and do we overwork the heart.”
The problem with high blood pressure is that it puts more strain on the heart muscle, which can cause an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), heart failure, or clotting that can lead to stroke.
It’s true that fasting can lower blood pressure, Yamamoto said, but so can starvation and dehydration, neither of which are healthy. It’s important to consider blood pressure in context of overall health, he said.
“The question is, ‘Can fasting decrease brain damage and heart damage in the long run?”” Yamamoto said. “The answer to that question is – probably not.”
Things that are proved to lower blood pressure in the long term include eating a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, getting plenty of exercise, managing stress, limiting alcohol consumption, and avoiding tobacco and nicotine products.
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It’s not yet clear how fasting works in the long term, but the type of fasting is important
There’s good evidence that some forms of fasting can reduce some people’s chances of developing long-term health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis.
Intermittent fasting refers to limiting meals to within a set time period. A popular variation is the 8:16 fast – eating all your daily meals within an eight-hour period and fasting the other 16 hours of the day. Practitioners of this method may choose to eat between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or between noon and 8 p.m., for example.
Dr. Miriam Merad, the director of the Precision Immunology Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, previously told Insider that there’s promising evidence that fasting had a huge number of health benefits, most likely by reducing inflammation.
“Maybe eating two times a day would be entirely sufficient and very beneficial, in fact, in terms of health,” Merad said.
However, she added, “if you start fasting for too long you destroy your immune system.”
“You become very susceptible to infection,” she said. “So fasting is not a trivial thing. It’s good to fast, but you cannot starve yourself.”
She also cautioned that fasting should always be supervised by a doctor, dietitian, or other professional. And fasting isn’t for everyone – it can be harmful to be people who are pregnant or who have history of disordered eating.
Ultimately, more research needs to be done to show the long-term health effects of fasting.
- Read more:
- A simple ‘polypill’ taken every day can cut the risk of heart attack in half, but some doctors are still hesitant to recommend it
- High blood pressure could make your brain shrink over time, according to new research
- There’s more evidence that fasting may make you healthier, and it comes from studying Ramadan observers.