Fasting is a practice that dates back through centuries in religion and cultures. Recently, fasting became quite popular in America due to the claims of health benefits, mainly weight loss. There are different kinds of fasting. There are fastings that take place over the course of 24-72 hours, and there is intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is when you cycle between periods of eating for a short window of a couple of hours and fasting anywhere from 16 hours to 20 hours a day. Research and studies have shown that fasting produces many health benefits, such as reducing diabetes, and better brain function. Healthy diet is also important and contributes to living longer, such as the mediterranean diet, and the chrono diet. Now there is a recent study that shows fasting is the new fountain of youth, helping you live longer.
The Research That Backs It Up
There were multiple studies done on mice and people proving that intermittent fasting has many great health benefits. The studies conducted are:
- In the 1980s, research revealed that lifespan of rats that fasted every other day increased substantially compared to rats who had food available at all times.
- A study published last year in 2017 divided people into two groups. One group ate whatever they wanted, while the other group had to consume between 800 and 1,100 calories for only five days out of the month. The study was conducted over 3 months. The pattern of those that fasted is called a “fasting mimicking diet,” or “FMD.’ The people who did the FMD and were at risk for disease (whether diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc) had their fasting glucose return to normal, lowering their risk for diabetes. Heart disease risks, cancer marks, and high levels of cholesterol all decreased. The participants also lost abdominal fat.
- The 5:2 diet is a form of intermittent fasting where people eat what they want for 5 days and then for 2 consecutive days they limit their caloric intake to 500. The research was conducted on 100 overweight women. They were divided into 2 groups, one with the 5:2 diet and the other had 3 meals a day with reduced caloric intake by 20-25% of what they normally eat. The results were that both groups lost the same amount of body weight over 6 months, however, the group on the 5:2 diet had more health benefits. The participants’ glucose levels went down, lowering the risk for diabetes, and the belly fat loss lowered their risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- New research published in October 2018, randomly divided 292 male mice into two groups. One group was given low fat, and the other was given higher protein and fiber foods. Each group was then divided into 3 sub-groups. One group had access to food all day, the other ate 30% fewer calories a day than the 1st group, and the last one had access to food with the same amount of calories as the 1st group. The mice who fasted, whether because they were given all of their calories once per day, or because their calories were restricted, were healthier and lived longer compared to the mice who had constant food access.
Stay Forever Young
Fasting helps you live longer because when you restrict food intake for a period of time, your body starts using ketones as fuel instead of glucose. When you repeat fasting, it can help optimize brain function and strengthen its resistance to stress and diseases. Not only will you live longer by fasting, but it is important to eat healthy when you do consume your calories for the day. The mediterranean diet has been proven to help improve one’s health and increase lifespan.
“We’ve published many papers, and the main thing we talk about is multisystem regeneration,” said Longo who runs the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. “For example, fasting seems to lower the level of damaged white blood cells — but when you re-feed, stem cells are turned on, and you rebuild and regenerate new, healthy cells,” explained Longo. “You get rid of the junk during starvation — and once you have food, you can rebuild. The damaged cells are replaced with new cells, working cells — and now the system starts working properly,” said Longo. This ultimately impacts disease risk, as risk factors for disease decrease when tissues are healthy and functional, explained Longo.
A Hopeful Future
As research suggests, fasting may just be the key to living longer. It enhances heart health, lowers the risk of diabetes, boosts brain function, aids in cancer prevention, and reduces weight! Trials are currently underway in order to determine if fasting can help slow down or even stop the progression of multiple sclerosis and cancer. Mark Mattson, chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging explained that, “If you hit cancer cells with chemo or radiation, when the individual is in a fasting state, the cells may be more vulnerable to being killed because they use glucose and cannot use ketones [the source of fuel during fasting].”
One thing is for sure, fasting comes with many health benefits, but it is important to seek approval from your doctor before doing it! The goal is to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible, and your doctor knows best. If you do decide to begin fasting, then start slow and progress over time how you (and your doctor) see fit.