I've published several articles on Fasting and the associated benefits, pros and cons of the practice. We have been doing it in link with religious and ceremonial rituals for eons and as humans, it is part of our developmental and evolutionary DNA. Restricted eating at certain times is what our bodies have traditionally been used to. Very rarely have we been in the position that we are now in the western, first world, where supply is plentiful, almost exceedingly and we are the victims of overextended choice, options and amounts of foodstuffs and consumables.
Fasting can help to re-set the system. Bring the body back to its singular base setting (like a re-boot) that allows the system to then pick up and run efficiently. Constant bombardment of any system without allowing for a 'time out' or low operating period will exhaust any system in the long term.
For those who may have seen it, a recent report on CATALYST from ABC showed an interesting approach with new research coming to the fore. To promote healthy and well being ageing, the report looks at DNA in communities and individuals that have aged well and that wonderful search for the elixir of the Fountain of Youth. Well it's not as much a fantasy as we may think and we all have access to it!
The most recent research to be making waves amongst the scientific world comes from a group of researchers from the Longevity Institute, School of Gerontology and Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California. The clinical report published in July 2015 promotes the idea of prolonged fasting combined with periods of nutrient rich ingestion – a Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD).
As the report states, intermittent fasting (IF – chronic and consistent fasting) or a diet of prolonged fasting (PF – prolonged fasting at various points where fasting occurs over 3 days or more) promotes protection against diabetes, cancer, heart disease and neuro-regeneration whilst promoting beneficial effects on insulin, glucose, C-reactive protein and blood pressure. To promote these good benefits of IF and PF, the scientists have come up with a diet that mimics the effects of both approaches – Fasting Mimicking Diet.
Prof Valter Longo is the Director of the Longevity Institute in the University of Southern California. He has been at the forefront of developing a study that promotes the Fasting Mimicking Diet – FMD.
“Maximising growth and maintenance means that you aren’t putting as much input into protectionism. Growth hormone receptors in dwarf mice have healthier outlooks much further into old age”.
Is it possible that dwarf people have the same behaviours? This led to a study of the Laron’s syndrome sufferers (a type of dwarfism where individuals are not advanced in height or muscular development) in villagers in Ecuador, who are found to not suffer diabetes, heart disease or cardiovascular disease despite their dwarfism and lack of growth hormone.
Growth hormone has a big issue on longevity – small dogs live longer than large dogs, as do mice – do humans follow the same trend? This rallies to the claim that Growth Factor or Growth hormones can have a debilitating effect on how well we age. By promoting a fasting mimicking diet approach the body is attempting to ‘clean out’ cellular imperfections and DNA damage to promote longevity. Protection of healthy cells or destruction of cells with damaged DNA means that the body is not sending as much energy into growth. This means that it is maximising its own cells. Manipulating the factors of growth and downgrading growth hormone production in the body leads to increased retention of healthy cells as well as the opportunity for the body to regenerate healthy and more active cell whilst eliminating ones that may potentially harm us such as in cancerous cells.
FMD is a low protein(9-10%), low amino acid, low carb(34-47%) but high in fat (44-56%). It’s aim is to decrease IGF-1, Insulin and Glucose levels making the body go into maintenance mode. Too much protein pushes the system to growth but the damged cells that are subsequent to these modalities are making their model hyper sensitive to risk of Cardio Vascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetic conditions. The body is being forced to deal with a slowing of cellular regeneration and rejuvenation. The premise of the approach is
“Downgrading caloric input = protecting the cells”
Prof Longo has found that trials with laboratory mice have found that fasting can have a huge impact on how your body reacts and recruits your body mechanisms and operating at levels equivalent with that of a younger person.
With the 1st fast at middle age and then twice a month for the remainder of the controlled environment, laboratory mice increased their lives by 11% and also with 50% reduction in tumors with an emphasis on benign tumours as opposed to malignant tumors. Also noted were a reduction in diabetic indicators, reduced inflamamation and reduced dermatitis. Cognitive function was also improved with the control group and this is consistent with the findings of low levels of IGF-1 hormone limiting suffering from Alzheimers and cognitive function such as in the Dwarves of the Ecuadorian study group. Mice had better bone density, better cognitive function an
In transferring this across to humans, the institute has made some remarkable and measurable results. It takes 2 days forthe body to go from using glucose and other nutrients to breaking down fats. In this instance, the body goes after visceral fat and not subcutaneous fat – that is – GUT FAT. Of course this means that there isn’t glucose readily available to power the body so activity is downgraded and it is not recommended to engage in strenuous activity (even a hike) during the fast. You don’t have the fuel and you are taxing your system at a level that it can’t regenerate – you need to allow the body to rest and rejuvenate and not be burning fuel to go with output.
The results of the FMD in terms of blood tests were that 20% drop in Glucose – insulin dropped to almost zero. NO protein meant that IGF-1 dropped by 30% which lead to protectionism against diseases. White Blood Cell counts were reduced but that means that inoperative old cells were killed off because energy needed to be saved. When you re-feed, cellular systems have to return to normal and this means the body replaces and rejuvenates almost every component of the body. This fast primes the stem cells for action and thus when normal dietary factors are re-instituted, the body goes into reproducing all those cells with prime, functioning cellular integrity. Perhaps the most interesting factor coming out of the return to normal eating patterns was – no loss of muscle mass! With a return to normal eating and ingestion of caloric intake, muscular density and bone density was not downgraded. In fact – it improved.
Fasting around once every 3 months shows that risk factors (CV, Cancer, diabetes) are decreased over the long term. Regeneration and rejuvenation in multiple systems leads to cellular activation working more like a younger person than an aged person.
Ageing can be healthy ageing if you are able to promote a good regeneration of cellular activity and maximise the cells that are functioning. So taking the approach of some down time with a ‘reduced caloric intake’ along the lines of low protein, carbohydrate and HIGH fats, may just be the best thing that you can do for yourself in the long run.
For more information and the complete research documents: