Fasting Extends Lifespan
Fact: Most people want to live a healthy, long life.
The Big Q: What is the best way to switch on the body’s ability to promote cellular protection, regeneration and rejuvenation?
The Big A: Valter Longo, PhD., a researcher and director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California (USC), helps answer that question, he has 20 years experience in the field.
His findings are detailed in his book, “The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight,” which provides the research framework to support his recommendations.
Experts believe multi-day water fasting is 1 of the most powerful metabolic interventions there is. That there is nothing that comes close, and the reason for this is because it switches your cells to antiaging mode.
It promotes autophagy and replaces cell components with newly generated functional ones, thanks to the activation of stem cells.
A Key step that makes water fasting easy is getting into the habit of intermittently fasting 20 hrs a day for at least a month, it works
If on medication, work with your doctor to ensure safety, as some medications really need to be taken with food and/or can become toxic when your body chemistry normalizes.
Those taking hypoglycemic or anti-hypertensive medication are particularly at risk, and may end up overdosing.
It is also recommended to continue taking nutritional supplements during a fast. Magnesium may cause severely loose stools, and high-quality salt is a must.
Certain health conditions may also need more stringent medical supervision to ensure safety when fasting.
It bears mentioning that Dr. Longo’s fasting mimicking diet is not a water-only fast.
The fasting mimicking diet involves restricting your calories to 800 to 1,100 calories per day for 5 days each month, opposed to no-calorie fasting.
It was developed to improve compliance, as many find a 5-day water-only fast to be too difficult. The low-calorie strategy helps reduce the likelihood of adverse side effects, while retaining the benefits.
He writes: “We first started with cancer patients about 10 years ago … [T]he National Cancer Institute … funded the research to develop a fasting mimicking diet … The reason it’s simple is [because] there’s an issue of compliance, but also an issue of safety. [F]irst of all, water-only fasting, or very low calorie fasting … has been done exclusively in clinics. Now, people could do it but they do it in clinics for a reason. It really revolutionizes your metabolism and to a lot of people, it’s going to be dangerous. Hypertension [and] hypoglycaemia [are possible side effects]. The purpose of the fasting mimicking diet was to make it easier on people, but also to make sure they don’t go to an extreme state in which then they start having problems, and we saw it in the clinical trial. We saw, even with the fasting mimicking diet, people can get weaker and can have some problem, but with the water-only fasting, these problems go up by another magnitude … This is why I think the fasting mimicking diet is the way to go.'”
People who should not water fast or be on the fasting mimicking diet include pregnant women, people who are seriously underweight and/or suffer from anorexia, seniors over the age of 70 unless you’re exceptionally healthy as I am at 79 anni.
Anyone who is fragile or people with liver or kidney disease, not for you.
If you have a chronic disease, work with your doctor and have him/her closely monitor your condition.
In his book, Dr. Longo cites animal research showing the fasting mimicking diet in combination with treadmill exercise resulted in greater maintenance of muscle mass and a decrease in sarcopenia.
Interestingly enough, neither strategy worked on its own. In this case, the mice got a low-calorie diet 2X a month for 4 days at a stretch. In between, they ate normally.
As a result, they lost visceral fat but not muscle mass.
This, Dr. Longo says, “really separates the fasting mimicking diet from most, if not all of other diets, in which there is always fat and water and muscle lost in the weight loss process. ” His research also shows the fasting mimicking diet reduces inflammation and inflammatory diseases such as dermatitis.
Cancers are reduced by nearly 50%.
Importantly, cancers are also significantly postponed, and many tumors are also benign rather than malignant.
Cognition is also improved.
In mice that received the fasting mimicking diet 2X a month were cognitively doing much better than the mice on the regular diet.
Another area of improvement is the immune system, which undergoes a transformation to a more youthful state.
Overall, there’s a reduction in risk factors for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, and an improvement in markers for aging.
“So, as expected, the diet is really going after multiple systems and causing multi-system regeneration and rejuvenation, leading to improved performance,” Dr. Longo says.
A Key message in Dr/ Longo’s book is the importance of cycling; the episodic fasting and re-feeding is really part of the process that makes this strategy so beneficial.
It also helps circumvent the negative effects that can occur during continuous fasting or chronic underfeeding.
Dr. Longo adds: “I would also point out that it’s not cycling that needs to be every month. It can be, but we basically say, if you’re obese and have high cholesterol and high blood pressure, yes, you probably have to do it every month, until you’re healthy. But if you’re the average person who may have high cholesterol and that’s it, this could be once every three months. So, every 90 days, you do it for five days, and I think that’s very reasonable. From the clinical trial, we show there are long-lasting effects. If we measure the effects of three cycles of the fasting mimicking diet, three months after the end of the third cycle, we still see about 60% of the changes there. So … it might take 3 to 6 months for these changes to be completely wiped out.”
To learn more about this beneficial “antiaging” strategy, be sure to pick up a copy of Longo’s book, “The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight.”
If you are like me an many others that I know and follow this column, and are interested in living healthier, longer, it could point you to that path.
Remember, always avoid sugar, processed foods and eat Real food!