We all know of course that we eat to stay alive. But what if that was only part of the story, that the body is very complex, and long before there were pantries, grocery stores, and the concept of agriculture, the human species frequently had to cope with famine.
How can the very thing that inevitably kills us, namely, the lack of food, actually trigger very real processes that can prolong rather than end our lives? When the species survival is at stake, starvation on a cellular level seems to trigger exactly those results.
In times of famine, the body produces Alpha Ketoglutarate (AKG) from converting Glutamate in the mitochondria. AKG, also found in Rejuvant™ (LifeAKG™), is involved with several known processes linked towards extending lifespan, including removal of ammonia from the body, maintaining the vitality of DNA, blocking the negative signals from aging cells, and regulating cellular energy, ATP.
How was this linkage between calorie deprivation demonstrated in lab studies?
A group of scientists from the National Institute on Aging, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, found that increasing the lag time between eating improved the overall health of mice and added to their lifespan, compared to mice that ate more frequently.
The health benefits were observed regardless of what the mice ate or how many calories they consumed, a surprising result.
The study showed that mice who ate with the longest fasting period, and only one meal, seemed to have a longer lifespan and better outcomes for conditions that increase as we age.
If you’ve heard anything about fasting before, you’ve probably heard about all of the major health benefits associated with practicing it. From weight loss and improved body composition to treating diabetes and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease — and that’s certainly not all.
Intermittent fasting refers to the idea of rearranging your eating schedule to allow your body to go for significant periods of time without food, generally in a 24-hour period.
If intermittent fasting is something you haven’t tried before, there isn’t just one way to go about it. I tell my patients that the best option for you will depend on how regularly you can schedule your meals.
In fact, there are several different methods that can be done:
- Alternate day fasting: ADF is simply as it sounds — you eat and fast on alternate days. For example, eat Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, then fast Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
- The 5:2 method: This method involves practicing fasting for two out of five days in the week, and eating normally for the remainder and weekends. Some people will restrict food intake to 500 calories on fasting days, while others will completely abstain from eating.
- 16/8 method (or similar): The 16/8 method designated an eating window of 8-hours and a fasting window of 16-hours. It can be done simply by finishing your last meal around 6-8pm and not eating again until 10-12pm the following day. Alternatively, you can practice a smaller fasting window of 12-14 hours.
- One meal a day (OMAD): The premise behind this is that you’re doing 24-hour fasts regularly. By eating a single meal per day around the same time (for example 6 pm), you’re giving your body a lengthy break from food.
While these are not the only methods of fasting, they are the most popular. Finding out what type works for you may take some experimentation, so try a few different styles and see which method your body responds best to.
As fasting becomes more of a popular practice among health-goers and the general population alike, the benefits are becoming much more robust.
You commonly hear about fasting for weight loss, the reversal of chronic diseases, and the like, but what about helping to increase longevity and quality of life?
The Benefits of Fasting for Longevity
Fasting can be a great thing to incorporate into your weekly routine because more and more research is being released on how it can extend your life and generally improve quality of life.
- Stimulates weight and fat loss — When you’re fasting, you’re consuming fewer calories than you normally would due to a restricted eating window, which can result in a caloric deficit and therefore weight loss.As well, your body burns glycogen stores during fasting to provide energy which also releases stored water; this is why we experience an initial drop in weight during extended fasts.As we age, burning fat becomes more difficult due to a slower metabolism, but fasting helps to increase metabolism, thereby improving energy metabolism.
- Improves glucose and insulin responses — Regular intermittent fasting can help to increase insulin-mediated glucose uptake rates, as well as helps to improve biomarkers associated with common chronic diseases like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and coronary heart disease.As glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity decrease with age, IT can help to improve responses and reduce the risk of disease.
- Stimulates autophagy — Autophagy is a homeostatic process in which cell components are degraded and recycled, also known more simply as our body’s ‘housekeeping’ process to remove dead or unwanted cells. It is necessary to improve the efficiency and function of various organelles and therefore improve the function of body systems and reducing the effects of aging. Studies have shown that autophagy is upregulated by short-term fasting.
- Improves cognitive function — Fasting has been shown to decrease both inflammation levels and rate of oxidation, which helps to improve brain function.It is also a potent stimulator of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which promotes neuronal health as well as plays a role in neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to change and adapt, meaning that the brain becomes more resilient to stress.BDNF also helps to produce new neurons within the brain, protect brain cells, stimulate the formation of new neuronal synapses (connections), all the while improving memory, mood, and learning abilities.Low levels of BDNF may make nerve cells more susceptible to injury and death.
- Improves mitochondrial function — As previously mentioned, BDNF expression is upregulated in response fasting and the production of BHB, a major ketone produced as a result of entering ketosis. BDNF signaling may stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis — the formation of new mitochondria — in order to supply adequate numbers of mitochondria required to support the function of newly formed synapses.The metabolic efficiency and stress tolerance of neuronal mitochondria can also be enhanced through periods of fasting.
- Decreases risk of developing chronic age-related health conditions — Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are two of the most common age-related neurodegenerative disorders.As there are no treatments to halt the progression of these diseases, diet and lifestyle interventions are the most common ways to manage these diseases. In lab animals, intermittent fasting has been shown to suppress inflammation, reduce neuronal hyperexcitability, and upregulate adaptive neuronal stress-resistance pathways — all of which help to lessen the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.
- Reduces metabolic biomarkers — Among some of the major effects of fasting relevant to aging and disease development are changes in IGF-1, IGFBP1, glucose, and insulin levels.Fasting for 3 or more days can cause up to a 30% or more decrease in circulating insulin and glucose, as well as a decrease in IGF-1 levels.IGF-1 is the major growth factor present in mammals and together with insulin, is associated with accelerated aging and the development of certain cancers.
- Boosts growth hormone levels — Studies show that periods of starvation or fasting can significantly increase levels of growth hormone, which helps to promote lipolysis and nitrogen conservation.It is also said to have powerful anti-aging effects by improving cognition, providing neuroprotection, and increasing neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells).
- Improves memory — Long-term potentiation (LTP) is an activity-dependent increase in synaptic strength that is a result of repetitive stimulation of synapses (brain connections). It is believed to have an active role in the processes of memory and learning.Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can prevent age-related deficits in LTP. BDNF also plays a role in LTP of which levels increase during periods of fasting.
There is a significant amount of evidence showing that regular periods of fasting can help to retard the aging process and reduce the development and/or progression of age-related diseases. Incorporating fasting into your routine doesn’t have to be difficult.
While it may be a challenge to cut food out cold turkey for a lengthy period of time, you don’t have to delve that deep right away. Start by fasting after dinner until the next morning and slowly increase the fasting window until you’ve reached your desired point.