Intermittent fasting and its effects on aging

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a way of eating, or an eating pattern that involves periods of eating and staying without any food for a certain period of time and repeating this process as a cycle. Fasting is not necessarily a diet, but only a way of eating and not eating. It does not require you to stick to particular types or amount of food. This does not however, mean that you may eat as much as you want and whatever you want when you are not in a fasting stage. There is a liberty to what and how much you eat but eating excessive amounts defeats the purpose of fasting. This is a very common misconception that has been circling in certain communities that is just not true. Most common intermittent fasting methods include 16 hour fasts each day or fasting for an entire day, two days a week.

Effects of intermittent fasting

There exists a plethora of studies that have been conducted mostly on animal test subjects that show promising results and health benefits. Mark Matson, senior investigator of the National Institute of aging, states that fasting has shown promise in areas such as preservation of learning and memory functioning, reducing oxidative stresses and positively influencing of naturally occurring molecules and genes that helps overcome disease.

There are various changes that take place in the body when an individual is fasting. Fasting enables the body to enter into ketosis, which switches the medium of energy for the body from food to stored fat. This simply means that the body will use stored fat as a form of energy resulting in fat burn. When you eat continuously, the body will store the excess as fat to be used later. But this fat will never be used unless you are in ketosis. Fasting makes this stored fat more accessible by reducing insulin levels which prevents the body from entering into ketosis.

In addition, fasting induces various cell repair processes. This process of cell repair occurring from fasting is very similar to how cells respond to exercise. When depriving the body of food, the cells will undergo stresses and allowing time for recovery makes them stronger. The cell repair that follows can help get rid of old and dysfunctional proteins that are inside the cells. Gene expressions also take a turn for the better by having changes related to longevity and immunity against disease. These effects can help in healthy aging in individuals.

According to a study conducted by the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health, dietary restrictions such as fasting can manipulate mitochondrial matrices in cells and can increase the lifespan and improve health. This study demonstrates the decreasing ability of cells to process energy as time passes and how it is a main cause in aging and diseases related to aging. The study further shows that fasting for periods of time such as in intermittent fasting can induce healthy aging.

Mark Matson, from the National Institute of aging, also states that intermittent fasting can have effects on the brain that can improve and also memory and the ability to learn. Not consuming food for ten to sixteen hours makes the body utilize fat stores to obtain energy. This releases ketones that shows the above beneficial properties when entered into the blood stream. Fasting can help reduce risks of aging related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and help keep memory and cognitive functions intact for longer.

References

Anton, S. and Leeuwenburgh, C. (2013). Fasting or caloric restriction for Healthy Aging. Experimental Gerontology, 48(10), pp.1003-1005.
Collier, R. (2013). Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 185(9), pp.E363-E364.
Patterson, R. and Sears, D. (2017). Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting. Annual Review of Nutrition, 37(1), pp.371-393.