Fasting for Longevity
Fasting is currently one of, if not the, most popular eating pattern these days and is believed to be an important therapeutic tool for longevity.
Well-nourished calorie restriction (fasting) can enhance healthy aging in a number of ways. Perhaps most easily observable to the naked eye are reductions in waist circumference and total body fat while preserving lean body mass – all improvements in metabolic syndrome conditions. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat, and high cholesterol and triglycerides which increase a person’s risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes – all common preventable diseases.
Beyond healthy weight reduction, even more is taking place at a cellular level while fasting. Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), and protein kinase A (PKA) are three nutrient pathways associated with age-related disease, specifically longevity, cellular growth, and metabolism, respectively. Done effectively, fasting has been shown to improve outcomes with each of these three important markers of metabolic health as well as promoting improvement in C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a nonspecific metabolic marker of inflammation.
Fasting has a positive impact on lipids as triglycerides, cholesterol, HDL, and LDL values all show improvements when fasting. The CALERIE2 trial in 2015 in which calories were simply restricted by 25% over a 2-year period showed improvements in insulin resistance, cholesterol, and blood pressure while revealing no untoward effects on quality of life of participants. This makes sense since we know cholesterol synthesis occurs in a fed state and cholesterol breakdown occurs in an unfed, or fasting, state where it can be utilized for cellular repair and energy.
This begs the question – why isn’t fasting recommended more often for lipid management instead of statins?
Cellular regeneration and detoxification, DNA repair, mitochondrial health, and cell recycling are additional benefits of fasting as cleansing and regeneration are a part of cholesterol breakdown. As our cells detoxify, we also reduce our inflammatory pathways, which can translate to reduction of joint and body pain. Autophagy is the process of recycling our body’s own damaged tissues into useable energy when we fast.
Further, when our body begins this process of autophagy, stem cell production is stimulated which ought to capture everyone’s attention these days. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells with the ability to grow into any of the body’s 200 types of cells, thus truly promoting regeneration, healing and anti-aging.
As stated above, there are several indicators pointing towards fasting as an effective approach to health management and longevity when done healthfully. Intermittent fasting (IF), periodic fasting (PF) and fast-mimicking (FM) are each a different approach to fasting, and I recommend you discuss the nuances between them with your doctor or qualified health practitioner who can help navigate you towards optimal health and wellness.
Dr. Brian Myers is a naturopathic primary care doctor with a focus on gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health at Live Well Clinic in La Quinta. For more information regarding our group fasting for longevity program, go to www.livewellclinic.org or call (760) 771.5970.
Sources: 1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27810402; 2) https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/70/9/1097/2949096; 3) https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(13)00503-2; 4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5048552; 5)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1568163716301830?via%3Dihub; 6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27912088; 7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3988204/