Would you like to extend your life span? Are you willing to skip several meals a few times a week to achieve that goal? Then put down your fork, push yourself away from the table, and read on.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting refers to a way of eating or managing food intake in which you cycle between fasting and eating. Typically, the fasting times range from 16 to 24 hours, and this practice is done once or twice a week. One approach is to not eat for 12 to 18 hours daily-consuming your last meal at 7 pm and your first meal at 12 pm. Between 12 pm and 7 pm, you can eat as much as you desire (healthy food of course!). However, there are other cycles of fasting that people find better fit their lifestyle.
How does intermittent fasting affect aging?
This is a huge question, as most of us wonder how we can have a positive impact on aging. The great news is that numerous studies have shown that intermittent fasting has a positive effect on aging. One example is a recent Harvard study published in Cell Metabolism in which researchers found that intermittent fasting can help you live longer. The secret to this benefit appears to be something called the mitochondria.
What are mitochondria and why are they so important?
Mitochondria are minuscule organs (actually, organelles) that are found in the body's cells. These organelles produce most of the cell's supply of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a molecule that provides cells with energy. As we age, the ability of these cells to keep pumping out energy declines, so it's important to find ways to enhance that process.
How to extend lifespan
Understanding how this process works has been confusing, but Harvard researchers recently uncovered some information that sheds light on the issue. Basically, they found that lengthening lifespan requires several processes, including fatty acid oxidation and "peroxisomal function." Peroxisomes are organelles involved in fat metabolism. This finding was made in C. elegans, a type of worm that is often used by scientists when evaluating lifespan.
The scientists reported that their discovery contributed critical knowledge to the question about how intermittent fasting can promote healthy aging. According to Heather Weir, lead author of the Harvard study, "Our findings open up new avenues in the search for therapeutic strategies that will reduce our likelihood of developing age-related diseases as we get older."
A more recent international study, appearing in Current Diabetes Reports, noted that restricting calories triggers a variety of processes in the body, including changes to hormonal balance, improved destruction of damaged cells, changes to cell suicide, and more that contribute to a lengthened lifespan. Some of the other benefits associated with intermittent fasting that may be associated with lengthening lifespan include lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol levels, and facilitating weight loss.
Is intermittent fasting for you?
Overall, experts are moving closer to agreeing that being a little hungry is not a bad thing. In fact, feeling full all the time makes you age faster, and being hungry helps your body stay young. So if living longer appeals to you, intermittent fasting may be the ticket to that goal. It is suggested you begin by trying one 16 to 24 hour fasting period once every few weeks and then gradually increase it to once a week and perhaps eventually twice a week. Keep notes on how you feel during these fasting and eating cycles and make adjustments as necessary to fit your lifestyle and response. Also, I recommend if you have a diagnosed health condition or take medication that may be affected by fasting, that you consult with a qualified medical practitioner before doing it.
Brown J. Harvard study shows the surprising impact of intermittent fasting on the aging process. Ideapod 2017 Nov 15
Feldscher K. In pursuit of healthy aging. The Harvard Gazette 2017 Nov 3.
Golbidi S et al. Health benefits of fasting and caloric restriction. Current Diabetes Reports 2017 Oct 23; 17(12): 123