Health and longevity are important to many of us. There are many products and practices out there that claim to be the answer to keeping us looking and feeling our best (and youngest). Many of us that are up to speed on the happenings of the wellness world will be familiar with intermittent fasting, however, did you know that fasting has numerous benefits beyond just weight loss? When it comes to our longevity, as well as anti-ageing, intermittent fasting is a powerful tool that boasts a myriad of advantages. Today we’ll discuss the science behind intermittent fasting, and some of the anti-ageing perks that you can experience through this versatile practice.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves time restricted eating according to the body’s circadian rhythm. This practice originally rose to prominence in popular culture in 2003, when Oprah Winfrey attributing her near 100-lb weight loss to the method, but it has existed across the world for centuries. It is not a diet in the conventional sense, as it does not instruct us on what we can and can’t eat, but rather when we should eat. There are several ways to go about intermittent fasting, such as daily 16-hour fasts with 8 hour eating windows or fasting for 24 hours twice a week.
How can intermittent fasting improve our longevity and help with anti-ageing?
Research has shown that intermittent fasting does influence both our longevity and that is also aids with anti-ageing. Whilst many consider these terms to be interchangeable, longevity is a term used to describe a long lifespan, while anti-aging refers to the prevention or reversal of age-related decline in physical and mental function. While aging is a natural and unavoidable process, it can be slowed down by making certain lifestyle changes, including intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is believed to enhance longevity and anti-aging through several means, including by reducing oxidative stress, increasing autophagy, and reducing inflammation.
Reduction in oxidative stress
A significant benefit of intermittent fasting is that it can reduce the levels of oxidative stress that the body experiences. Oxidative stress refers to the imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the ability of the body to detoxify or repair the damage caused by these molecules. Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. This stress can cause cellular damage and accelerate the aging process. ROS can damage proteins, lipids, and DNA, leading to various diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, and cardiovascular diseases. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and prevent them from causing damage. Intermittent fasting is believed to reduce oxidative stress by increasing the body's production of antioxidants, such as glutathione, and reducing the production of free radicals.
Increase in Autophagy
One of the benefits of intermittent fasting is its ability to increase autophagy, which is the natural process of cellular self-cleansing and recycling. Autophagy plays a crucial role in maintaining cellular health and preventing age-related diseases. Research suggests that intermittent fasting can increase autophagy, which can help to prevent or reverse age-related decline in physical and mental function. This is because during fasting, the body's insulin levels decrease, and the levels of glucagon and growth hormone increase. This hormonal shift signals the body to activate its autophagy pathways to break down and recycle damaged cellular components. Additionally, during fasting, the body relies on its stored energy sources, such as glycogen and fat, to meet its energy needs. This process generates molecules called ketones, which can also activate autophagy. This increase in autophagy by altering the body's hormonal and metabolic pathways, triggers the cellular self-cleansing process. This effect can likely contribute to the anti-aging and disease-preventing benefits of the practice of fasting.
A further way that intermittent fasting contributes to both longevity and anti-ageing is by reducing inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation is a natural response of the body to injury or infection, however chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of age-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. Intermittent fasting is believed to reduce inflammation by lowering levels of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body, such as cytokines. Thus, fasting can be a great option for those wanting to reduce inflammation in their body for greater longevity.
In addition to these factors, intermittent fasting may also improve longevity and anti- aging by promoting weight loss, reducing insulin resistance, and improving cardiovascular health, so it could even be considered one of the great secrets to unlocking the fountain of youth! However, before you go on any fasting frenzies, it is important to note that it may not be suitable for everyone, so consult a healthcare professional before beginning a new dietary regimen.