Intermittent fasting, that cycles between regular, shorter periods of eating and longer periods of fasting, has become one of the most popular health trends in recent years. It has been linked to lower risks of cognitive decline, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and age-related illnesses.
People have been fasting for years to lose weight, but what if we told you that the longer you fast, the longer you can live? The idea may be hard to stomach, because it sounds so counterintuitive, but a new study by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) suggests that intermittent fasting could be the key to longevity.
A group of scientists from the NIA, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana found that increasing time between meals improved the overall health of male mice and lengthened their lives compared to mice that ate more frequently. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the health benefits were seen regardless of what the mice ate or how many calories they consumed.
In the study, mice who ate one meal per day who had the longest fasting period also had the longer lifespan and better outcomes for aged-related diseases.
Clinic trials with people have also shown a lot of promise around intermittent fasting. While intermittent fasting can equal reduced calorie consumption, the benefits are not restricted to lessening calories or weight loss. The benefits come from causing the body to switch to using glucose stored in the liver to ketones, which are stored in fat.
Ketogenesis, or the increase of ketones, can beef up your body’s ability to be more active against internal inflammation and help repair cells and remove damaged cell tissues and toxins. Contrary to the old fitness wisdom that “eating often increases your metabolism” what studies and clinical trials reveal is that fasting is the time when the body literally “takes out the garbage” and repairs cell damage. Continuously eating, or snacking periodically throughout the day, doesn’t allow your body to readjust or rest as insulin is triggered along with many other physiological functions.
What seems to be the fasting sweet spot? Experts say somewhere around 12 hours a day for at least five days straight can to be beneficial. However there are some caveats to consider. Fasting may not be for everyone or only required a few times a year depending on your specific health needs. Menstruating women or people dealing with adrenal stress can place additional, unwanted stress on their bodies by fasting. Working with a practitioner who has expertise in fasting and hormone health is the best bet for finding an intermittent fasting option that works best for you.