Intermittent fasting is a powerful health practice that is part of many spiritual and medical traditions around the world. The practice can work wonders for improving energy, digestion and immunity, but science points to powerful long term benefits as well.
Dr. Lisa Davis of Pressed Juicery’s medical advisory board is talking with us about the science behind intermittent fasting and why it can be such a powerful health habit. We highly recommend learning all you about the power of cleanses and fasts, but also remind readers to be mindful and gentle with yourself as you find what works for your own health…
Can Fasting Slow Down Aging?
Science is tackling whether or not fewer calories can mean a longer life for humans.
As the United States continues into the 21st century, the obesity epidemic shows few signs of easing. Cheap, sugary and fatty foods are everywhere one looks, and a majority of people in the U.S. are overfed and suffering as a result.
Calorie restriction (CR) is one way to address obesity (and simply being overweight), and science is finding out that cutting calories may lengthen the lifespan while shrinking the waistline.
The healthy effects of CR aren’t limited to a lowered risk of obesity-related disease when people lose weight. There’s more to it than that: Cutting calories may benefit our bodies on a cellular level that nutritional science is just starting to understand.
Epigenetics and CR
How long we live — and how well — has a lot to do with epigenetics, the particular ways in which our genes express themselves, even as our DNA stays the same. As we age, these genetic instructions can change, or ‘drift,’ turning up some genes’ traits while dialing back others.
Calorie restriction affects epigenics. In the past decade, a number of studies have shown that restricting calories in simple life forms such as fish, flies, worms and yeast altered the expression of their genes in a range of ways. The organisms showed improved insulin sensitivity and reduced oxidative stress (the wear and tear on cells that contributes to the aging process).
Further rodent studies demonstrated that calorie restriction could slow down aging-related changes in gene expression governing skeletal muscle, brain and heart tissues. Could human beings also see similar results?
The “CALeRIE” Study
Studying the phenomenon in humans took some careful thought, since starvation was not feasible. A two-year study called the Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing the Intake of Energy, (CALERIE) was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the results were published in 2015.
The study showed that calorie restriction (a cut of 25% of the subjects’ energy needs) in normal-weight and overweight adults over a six-month period did not affect their metabolism, but did slow down the rate of high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and insulin resistance.
Remarkably, the study also found that the long-term CR plan reduced the subjects’ levels of C-reactive protein by 47 percent. C-reactive protein is a biomarker of inflammation, which is associated with cardiovascular disease and other ailments more common in older people.
CR: Cutting the Calories, Keeping the Nutrients
Calorie restriction is more than just fasting and is based on limiting calories while providing adequate vitamins and minerals essential to health.
Professor Monika Puzianowska-Kuznicka, an authority on clinical epigenetics at the Mossakowski Medical Research Center in Warsaw, Poland, notes that certain bioactive nutrients can affect health and aging in much the same way that CR can.
Naturally occurring compounds such as polyphenols found in fruits, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables have been shown to lower the risk of aging-related illness, including cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
With this in mind, dietary scientists are currently designing studies exploring the potential of fresh fruit and vegetable juices in intermittent fasts, since they support both objectives: helping reduce calories, while ensuring a rich supply of these healthy compounds.
Many green juices are low in calories, high in nutrients — for example, Pressed Juicery’s Greens 1 juice is only 30 calories per serving.
CR in Action: Intermittent Fast Days
CR is used in plans with intermittent fast days — 24-hour periods when intake of calories is between 60% and 85% of the person’s daily energy needs.
A typical CR plan alternates fast days with days of normal calorie intake. For instance, fasting for two or three non-consecutive days a week and taking in the full recommended number of calories on the other days.
Although CR is linked with improving health and possibly even extending life, caution is a must. For any calorie-restricting diet, it is essential to get clearance from your doctor, registered dietitian, nurse or primary care provider before you begin.
Learn more about intermittent fasting with this guide from functional medicine pro, Dr. Axe.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.