As we slowly emerge from social distancing, some of us are looking to shed the extra pounds we have accrued during this period of isolation. Incorporating intermittent fasting into your diet plan may not only lower your weight but may also help you live longer.
For decades, through published research, it has widely been accepted that calorie restriction can promote longevity and slow the aging process (1). The most widely accepted reason is simple; metabolizing calories creates free radicals, an excess of free radicals promotes aging and shortens lifespan. Decrease caloric intake and you’ll decrease free radical production, thus promoting a longer lifespan (2).
This can also be correlated through human phenotypes. Studies have shown in otherwise healthy women, the leanest live the longest (3) and the thinnest men have less cardiovascular disease (4).
So while it is true that being thin can help you live longer and intermittent fasting can trim your waistline, there is much more to the story. Intermittent fasting goes far beyond the usual mechanisms of calorie restriction to promote longevity.
Consider, as scientific researchers do, you have a metabolic switch. When “on” or in the “feeding stage” your cells under go growth and building, but in the “off” or “fasting phase” complex cellular pathways are turned on that protect against metabolic stress, reduce inflammation, and recycle damaged cells (5).
Accessing these cellular pathways through fasting has been shown to improve memory, cardiovascular health, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, cancer, tissue injury and longevity (5).
The problem is that most people don’t go into the fasting state with regular three meals a day, thus never tapping into their bodies’ own natural ability to heal and restore damaged cell material.
To take advantage of your body’s ability to turn on the disease fighting metabolic fasting phase, you could slowly increase your fasting period to a goal of 18 hours a day, consuming all your calories during a 6 hour daily feeding period, such as the plan laid out by de Cabo and colleagues (5).
Aside from the adjustment period, this may also be the easiest part of your weight loss regimen to achieve. It requires no time, no additional effort, no meal preparation, no muscle fatigue, and no equipment. Once you’ve acclimated to your new fasting routine, the mild symptoms of ketosis (headache, fatigue, difficulty focusing etc.) will dissipate and you will be on your way to a brand new, lengthened way of living.
Please do not undergo any fasting or diet program without first consulting a physician.
1. McCay CCM, Crowell MMF, Maynard LLA. The effect of retarded growth upon the length of life span and upon the ultimate body size. J of Nutr. 1935; 10:63-79.
2. Sohal RS, Ku HH, Agarwal S, Forster MJ, Lal H. Oxidative damage, mitochondrial oxidant generation and antioxidant defenses during aging and in response to food restriction in the mouse. Mech Ageing Dev. 1994; 74:121-133.
3. Mason JE, Willet WC, Stampfer MJ et al. Body weight and mortality among women. NEJM. 1995; 333:677-85.
4. Lee I, Manson JE, Hennekens CH, Paffenbarger RS. Body weight and mortality: a 27 year follow-up of middle-aged men. JAMA. 1993; 270 (23):2823-28.
5. de Cabo, R, Mattson MP. Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease. NEJM. 2019; 381(26):2541-51.