Many of you might not be familiar with the idea of intermittent fasting. It refers to the eating pattern which revolves between the periods of fasting and eating.
Considering the most common types of intermittent fasting, the methods involve 16-hours fast daily or 24-hour fast twice a week. So basically, when you take breaks from eating, like for a certain period of time, it is called intermittent fasting.
Those who are in favor of intermittent fasting put forward an argument that it has been around for as long as humans have lived, throughout their evolution. It seems quite a reasonable argument because, in older times, people had to fast, either due to hunger or because their religion asked them to. Fasting has been a core part of many religions in the world, including Islam, Buddhism and Christianity.
How did intermittent fasting thrive so many centuries and still exists to be one of the most effective ways for weight loss? It’s the benefits.
Numerous researches have shown that intermittent fasting is very beneficial. Recently, Harvard study has further provided evidence for this notion, specifically with reference to its anti-aging advantage.
Everything’s about your mitochondria
This research at Harvard studied the fundamental biology involved in our cell’s weakening ability to produce energy. It is what causes aging and aging-related diseases. The study also looked at how taking up fasting promotes anti-aging.
Mitochondria are the powerhouse of a cell. It produces most of the cell’s supply of adenosine triphosphate – a molecule responsible for providing the cell with energy. Their capacity to produce these molecules deteriorate with age but, before this study impact on metabolism and cellular function, was previously unclear.
In this study, researchers used C Elegans (nematode worms) to demonstrate the causal link between dynamic changes of mitochondrial network and longevity. Use of these worms, who have a lifespan of 2 weeks only, made it possible to study the aging process. When the researches restricted the worms’ diets, they saw that this restriction maintained the mitochondrial networks in a fused or “youthful” state.
Lead author of the study, Heather Weir said, “Low energy conditions such as dietary restriction and intermittent fasting have previously been shown to promote healthy aging. Understanding why this is the case is a crucial step toward being able to harness the benefits therapeutically. Our findings open up new avenues in the research for therapeutic strategies that will reduce our likelihood of developing age-related diseases as we get older.”
William Mair, associate professor of genetics and complex diseases at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study, said, “Although previous work has shown how intermittent fasting can slow aging, we are only beginning to understand the underlying biology. Our work shows how crucial the plasticity of mitochondria networks is for the benefits of fasting. If we lock mitochondria in one state, we completely block the effects of fasting or dietary restriction on longevity.”
Encouraging a more natural approach to health
Intermittent fasting doesn’t only slow the aging process but it holds numerous other benefits: it helps aid weight loss, lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol. It is a very natural healthy approach to life. The question arises, if it is so healthy, how come food and pharmaceutical industries aren’t studying it? The current chief of the laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging, Mark Mattson explained the answer quite well int he TED Talk. Here’s what he had to say:
“If people fast, the food industry loses money. What about the pharmaceutical industries? What if people do some intermittent fasting, exercise periodically and are very healthy, is the pharmaceutical industry going to make any money on healthy people?” – Food for thought!
We are used to having three meals a day. We even have snacks ready at our disposal whenever we feel hungry. What we fail to realize is that being full all the time only makes our body grow older. Staying hungry, on the other hand, is helping our body maintain its youthful state.
If a Harvard research has further added to the researches on the anti-aging benefits of intermittent fasting, it’s about time we think about our eating patterns. If you haven’t tried intermittent fasting earlier, give it a shot!
Image source: Gerrit Dou/Wikimedia
Originally inspired by Ideapod