Fasting helps maintain youthfulness and live a longer life
Many individuals suggest that eating 2000 calories, in a balanced diet, is considered healthy living and can decrease our chances of developing health issues. However, others suggest that eating less – to the point of fasting, can actually reduce aging. Many scientists believe that it can even increase our life span.
According to a team of researchers from the University of Southern California, eating as little as possible and only consuming certain foods, can make our body think that it’s fasting. In doing so, it adjusts itself to “reduce aging factors and increase our life span.”
This idea came from a method called “caloric restriction”, which is defined as consuming a restricted, daily amount of calories. Scientists believe that when our body starts to fast, it reprograms itself: cells are destroyed and the body system goes into standby. This produces stem cells, which help regenerate old cells and organ mass. This is the main reason why scientists believe fasting can help with maintaining youthfulness and contribute to a prolonged life span.
In 2006, Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, of the University of Florida, used this caloric restriction method on mice. He believed that by consuming 8% less and doing small amount of exercise helps in alleviating aging-related issues and even lessen the effect on damaged cells. Another study shows that dogs undergoing a similar caloric restriction test have been proven to have longer life spans, by an average of 1.8 years.
Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology at UCS Davis, tested this idea with both humans and mice as subjects. Human subjects had to fast for five days in a row, every month, for three months. Every human subject had to take in 1000 calories on the first day, while consuming only 750 calories on the remaining four days. The subjects also had to eat specific meals that contained the right amount of fats, carbohydrates and protein. Longo named this the “human fasting mimicking diet”, FMD for short.
FMD is an exercise which focuses on consuming the right amounts of protein and micronutrients, like vitamins, while still triggering the body to think that it’s fasting. After three months of testing, loss of body fat and decrease of cardiovascular disease risks were quite visible. All while still increasing stem cell production – a characteristic of fasting. However, just fasting alone will not have the same affect. Longo found that out by having test subjects consume 1000 calories and then the other 750 calories, which left subjects simply craving with hunger.
By triggering the body into thinking that it’s “fasting”, the pathways in the system will be controlled. These pathways include IGF pathways – which are essentially body switches for certain reactions, like organ shrinking. Longo states that our cells have a workload of things to do, like protecting our immune system and flushing out toxins. When we consume fewer calories, we alleviate any stress suffered by our cells. As a result, it helps the cell do more important tasks – such as maintaining youthfulness and longevity.
Although many are skeptic towards the actual benefits of this method, others believe that it does not only work, but it is considered quite safe. Longo considers that his fasting method of five days is difficult to do, but nonetheless harmless. However, he does not suggest to fast longer than that.
His work and those of many other researchers who continually try to find the connection between fasting, anti-aging techniques and longevity still need to be refined. Regardless, it should be clear that fasting does not result in immortality, but only helps the body create good cells and destroy damaged ones. In the end, fasting for a couple of days may be what someone needs in order to rejuvenate oneself.