In my opinion, intermittent fasting is the number one under-utilized health tool. In North America we have been conditioned to eat as soon as our eyes open in the morning and many folks snack right up until when they hit the sack. Fasting is most known for its use in fat loss but it offers so much more than lost inches. To learn more about intermittent fasting download my FREE GUIDE by clicking here.
There is a lot of initial evidence to suggest that temporary periodic fasting can induce long lasting changes that can be beneficial against aging and chronic disease.
Even if you took a cocktail of drugs, very potent ones, you will never get close to what fasting dose! Let’s go over my favourite benefits of intermittent fasting.
#1. Fasting & longevity
Many studies have shown that fasted mice live longer and unlike caloric restricted mice, the fasted mice were not physically stunted (1). In the study mice that fast have fewer signs of cancer, heart disease and neurodegeneration (1). Fasting increases ones lifespan but more importantly it increases ones “health span”. Health span is the amount of time you live without chronic age related diseases. The possible mechanism by which fasting increases health span is that when you fast body reduce the amount of IGF-1 It produces (2). Lower amounts of circulating levels of IGF1 may play a role in reducing your risk of diseases of aging because it switches on a number of repair genes (2).
#2 Fasting & Autophagy
One of the changed noted during fasting is that the body switches on a process called “autophagy” (3-6). Autophagy literally means to “self-eat” . It is a process by which the body breaks down and recycles old and tired cells. Just like we must take our cars in for repairs and tune ups, it is important to get rid of damaged or aging cells in our bodies. Fasting acts as the spring clean, getting rid of the old and allowing opportunity for new cells (which behave properly) to proliferate (3-6).
#3 Fasting & Stem Cell Regeneration
When we fast our bodies want to save energy. One of the ways our bodies converse energy is by recycling immune cells that are not needed, especially those which are damaged. The body can use the components of these cells for fuel. Yes, with prolonged fasting white blood cells have been shown to decrease (making you more prone to infection) but a short fast results in a rebound effect with the creation of new, more active cells (2).
Fasting also has the ability to impact our genetics. One interesting area of research is that fasting appears to be able to reduce the activity of the PKA gene (2). This gene encodes or provides the blueprint to produce an enzyme that would normally reduce regeneration. Thus, when the PKA gene is less expressed, the enzyme is not generated and stem cells can start proliferating. What is really cool is the potential impact this has on the aging process. The researches who published these findings have hypothesized that if you immune system is not as effective as it was (either due to age or chemotherapy) then intermittent fasting, and the changes it causes to genetics, may help regenerate it (2) .
#4 Fasting is NOT just caloric restriction
There is a misconception out there that fasting results in weight loss because it is merely a calorie deficit but I believe it is much more.
Research out of Salk Institute for Biological Studies looked at two groups of mice (7). Both groups were fed the exact same high fat diet. Group 1 was allowed to eat when ever they wanted (Ad libitum), where as group 2 had to eat within an 8 hour feeding window (Time Restricted Feeding or TRF).
After 100 days, the group that was allowed to eat all day developed high cholesterol, high blood glucose, and liver damage.
In contrast, Intermittent fasting group gained 28% less weight, suffered less liver damage, had lower levels of chronic inflammation (7).
This suggests intermittent fasting may be able to reduce risk of a number of disease such as alzhimers, heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
Photo Credit: Chaix, Amandine, et al. “Time-restricted feeding is a preventative and therapeutic intervention against diverse nutritional challenges.” Cell metabolism 20.6 (2014): 991-1005.
WHY? How can this be?
One possible mechanism is that when you eat, your insulin levels are elevated and your body is stuck in storage mode. The rats that were always nibbling, always had high insulin resulting in obesity and liver damage.
#5 Fasting & Diabetes
Lets review a key hormone when it comes insulin resistance and diabetes.
Insulin is a hormone that is similar to IGF1 that we talked about above. It tends to increase cell turn over and reduce autopahgy (clearing of old cells). Aside from this, insulin is best known for its role in regulating blood sugar.
When we eat foods, particularly carbohydrates, our blood sugar levels rise and in response and our pancreas starts to pump out insulin. Glucose is typically the primary fuel soruce for energy BUT high circulating levels are toxic. The primary role of insulin is to regulate blood glucose levels. We do not want blood sugar too high or too low! In order to do this insulin extracts glucose from blood and sends it to the liver to be stored in the form of glycogen. Insulin is also a fat controller and inhibits lipolysis, the breakdown of stored body fat while at the same time it forces cells to take up and store fat from your body.
Summary: High levels of Insulin increases fat storage and low levels lead to depletion of fat stores .
Where we run into problems is if we frequently eat high carbohydrate meals. Your pancreas copes to the best of its ability by pumping out more and more insulin. Eventually your cells will rebel and become resistant to the effect. Kind of like when your kids are yelling MOM, MOM, MOM and eventually you can;t help but tune them out.
Your cells too eventually stop responding to insulin, and your blood glucose stays permentaly high. Now unfortunately for you, you’ve joined the 422 million people around the world who have type 2 diabetes (8). This mind-blowing statistic is up from 108 million people living with type 2 diabetes in 1980 (8).
Type 2 diabetes is a PREVENTABLE disease that you do not want to suffer with. According to the World Health Organization, “Diabetes can be treated and its consequences avoided or delayed with diet, physical activity, medication and regular screening and treatment for complications (8).” Diabetes is associated with increased risk of dementia, brain shrinkage, amputation, heart attack, kidney disease and blindness (8). The good news is a 2005 study showed that in just 2 weeks of intermittent fasting you can positively impact your bodies ability to respond to insulin (9)
Fasting is so powerful because it provides a rest for your pancreas which will boost the effectiveness of the insulin it produces in response to elevated blood glucose. Increased insulin sensitivity will reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cognitive decline (8).
Just to recap, benefits of Intermittent Fasting include:
- Weight loss due to the effects on hormones but because of a caloric deficit.
- Reduction in IGF1 translating to a reduced risk for age related diseases.
- Turning on of repair genes , Rebooting your immune system.
- Rest for your pancreas and improved insulin sensitivity —> reducing your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive decline
- BONUS: Increase in neurotrophic factor which may lift your mood and make you more cherry!
Despite all the health benefits of intermittent fasting, always check with your doctor first. After being given the green light I am happy to walk you through the process.
If you are 100% committed to transforming your health and interested in trying out intermittent fasting, I welcome you to join the 6 week Wild Side Wellness program starting May 22nd.
Throughout the process you will be supported daily and held accountable because compliance is the number 1 factor contributing to the success of my clients! To view comprehensive information and register click here.
- Honjoh, Sakiko, et al. “Signalling through RHEB-1 mediates intermittent fasting-induced longevity in C. elegans.” Nature 457.7230 (2009): 726-730.
- Cheng, Chia-Wei, et al. “Prolonged fasting reduces IGF-1/PKA to promote hematopoietic-stem-cell-based regeneration and reverse immunosuppression.” Cell stem cell 14.6 (2014): 810-823.
- Madeo, Frank, Nektarios Tavernarakis, and Guido Kroemer. “Can autophagy promote longevity?.” Nature cell biology 12.9 (2010): 842-846.
- Mammucari, Cristina, et al. “FoxO3 controls autophagy in skeletal muscle in vivo.” Cell metabolism 6.6 (2007): 458-471.
- Alirezaei, Mehrdad, et al. “Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy.” Autophagy 6.6 (2010): 702-710.
- Vanhorebeek, Ilse, et al. “Insufficient activation of autophagy allows cellular damage to accumulate in critically ill patients.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 96.4 (2011): E633-E645.
- Chaix, Amandine, et al. “Time-restricted feeding is a preventative and therapeutic intervention against diverse nutritional challenges.” Cell metabolism 20.6 (2014): 991-1005.
- N. Halberg, M. Henricksen, N. Söderhamn, B. Stallknecht, T. Ploug, P. Scherling, and F. Dela, Department of Muscle Research Centre, The Panum Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, “Effect of intermittent fasting and refeeding on insulin action in healthy men,” Journal of Applied Physiology (December 2005): 2128-36.