Over the past few years Intermittent fasting has gained popularity. It may have started out as a ‘diet’ to lose weight, however the mounting research shows fasting has many health benefits. This completely free and simple biohack has been known to reduce pain and inflammation, slow the aging process and even help with reducing anxiety and depression.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting (choosing not to eat) and eating. It does not specify which foods to eat, rather focuses on when you should eat. There are several popular methods of intermittent fasting, including the 16/8 method, the 5:2 diet, and alternate-day fasting.
In 2016 Dr. Ohsumi changed the fasting landscape dramatically after winning a Nobel prize for his work on autophagy. Autophagy means “self-eating” and is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells. Autophagy is like the fast (no pun intended) track to healing and slowing the aging process. What does autophagy have to do with fasting? Well, fasting triggers this magical autophagy process. Essentially, fasting helps accelerate healing and gets your body to naturally repair itself!
16/8 Method: This involves daily fasting for 16 hours and restricting your eating window to 8 hours. Typically, people achieve this by skipping breakfast and starting their eating window around noon, then finishing their last meal by 8 pm.
5:2 Diet: In this method, you eat normally for five days of the week and restrict your calorie intake to around 500-600 calories for the remaining two days. The two fasting days should not be consecutive.
Alternate-Day Fasting: This method involves fasting every other day. On fasting days, you may consume a minimal amount of calories (around 500), or you may choose to completely abstain from food.
When you start intermittent fasting, choose a fasting method that suits your lifestyle and preferences.
Start gradually: If you’re new to fasting, begin by extending your nightly fasting period by a couple of hours. Slowly increase the duration until you reach your desired fasting schedule.
Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water during fasting periods to stay hydrated.
Eat balanced meals: During your eating windows, focus on consuming nutrient-dense, whole foods to ensure you’re getting adequate nutrition. This is key regardless of the type of fasting approach you take. Do not break your fast with poor food choices.
Listen to your body: If you feel unwell or experience any adverse effects, consider adjusting your fasting schedule.
Fasting & Longevity
The recent increase in scientific research around fasting has allowed us to understand just how fasting positively affects our physiology, cells, ageing, disease and overall health.
Intermittent fasting has been suggested as a potential strategy for promoting longevity, although it’s important to note that research in this area is still evolving, and more studies are needed to fully understand the long-term effects. However, some scientific evidence and theoretical mechanisms suggest that intermittent fasting may have positive implications for lifespan:
Cellular repair and autophagy: Intermittent fasting triggers cellular repair processes and promotes autophagy, which is the body’s natural mechanism for clearing out damaged cells and cellular components. This cellular cleansing process is believed to contribute to improved cellular function and longevity.
Insulin sensitivity and metabolic health: Intermittent fasting can improve insulin sensitivity and promote metabolic flexibility. By reducing insulin resistance and stabilising blood sugar levels, intermittent fasting may lower the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers, which are associated with decreased lifespan.
Oxidative stress and inflammation: Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Chronic oxidative stress and inflammation are known contributors to aging and age-related diseases. By reducing these factors, intermittent fasting may potentially support longevity.Gene expression and cellular stress resistance: Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting can influence gene expression, particularly genes involved in stress resistance and longevity pathways. These genetic adaptations may enhance the body’s ability to cope with cellular stressors and promote longevity.
While these mechanisms and observations are promising, it’s essential to approach healthy ageing with a holistic view and not solely rely on intermittent fasting. Lifestyle factors such as a healthy diet, regular physical activity, stress management, and overall wellbeing also play crucial roles in promoting longevity.
It’s worth noting that intermittent fasting may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with certain medical conditions or individuals who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a history of eating disorders. Consulting your healthcare professional before starting any new dietary approach, especially if you have specific health concerns or conditions.
“There is NO such thing as a failed fast. Every fasting experience makes you stronger and more adapted.” – Dr. Mindy Pelz
Words: Kris Abbey
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