Welcome to part two of the Fabulous Fasting series.
In this second article of the series, you will learn about the physical benefits of fasting, that’s how fasting can keep you younger and healthier for longer and can extend your longevity in a physical way.
There are mental benefits too, but this subject will be covered in the next article.
The Physical Health Benefits of Fasting
In the first article we briefly mentioned some of the health benefits of fasting and we’ll now look at this is far more detail in this article, with a more scientific slant.
As we mentioned in the last article, exercise and healthy eating alone is not enough to extend longevity, although they do help in keeping you healthier than if you did not adopt these practises.
Research suggests that intermittent fasting has a wide range of health benefits and can extend longevity by up to 40%.
This could mean that an average lifespan of 80 or 90 years could be increase to 120 or 130 years.
Not only does fasting increase the your lifespan, it also means you remain healthier and younger looking for much longer.
The Scientific Bit
In the BBC Horizon documentary, East, Fast and Live Longer, Michael Mosley meets Professor Valter Longo in Los Angeles, who is a leading scientific expert on the subject of ageing and is the Director of the Longevity Institute.
He studies ageing and has found some staggering links between our eating habits and longevity.
He has found clues from various studies.
The first being a group of people in Ecuador who have a rare condition called Laron Syndrome.
This is a condition that affects less than 350 people globally. Professor Longo discovered that people with this rare disorder are practically immune to diabetes and cancer, which are two of the most common causes of death in the Western world.
The group of people that Professor Longo has studied led quite an unhealthy lifestyle.
They smoke, drink are overweight and have high calorie diets, yet not a single one has ever had cancer or diabetes.
Their normal size relatives who do not have Laron syndrome on the other hand still suffer from these common illnesses.
This astounding discovery led Professor Longo to begin research into why this occurs. His findings were unbelievable.
He discovered that one of the mutations of the people with Laron syndrome was that they had extraordinarily low levels of a growth hormone called IGF-1, which is what made them so small.
Professor Longo was intrigued by this discovery and so he went on to research links between IGF-1 and a reduction in the risk of common diseases and illnesses.
He conducted studies on a genetically engineered mouse.
The mouse has been engineered to have a reduction in the IGF-1 hormone, and amazingly, the mouse now holds the world record for longevity extension.
It has a 40% lifespan extension compared with a normal mouse.
This finding is the beginning of research that could change the world, but the next hurdle was to find out how humans can easily reduce the amount of IGF-1 in the body.
IGF-1 Reduction and Fasting
Professor Longo, being the scientist that he is, wanted to take the studies further to find out how IGF-1 reduction was possible in humans, and what he later discovered was out of this world.
His research found that the protein in the food that we eat affects the amount of IGF-1 production in the body.
Cell production in the body is faster and IGF-1 is the hormone that controls this. By cutting the IGF-1 in the body, the cells slow down and so cell damage is repaired.
Longo’s analogy is it’s like driving your car all the time, and never taking it to a mechanic.
He is saying that, in order for something to work properly and efficiently, it needs maintenance.
IGF-1 reduction therefore decreases cell growth and reproduction, and the cells then deal with damage and repair, which cuts the risk of diseases and illnesses like heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, which are all caused by some form or cell damage and high levels of cholesterol.
Cholesterol levels are also reduced during fasting.
The answer therefore to reducing the amount of IGF-1 would be to starve the body of protein.
Protein is in most things that we eat in some form or another, and thus his idea of fasting came about.
Longo has now conducted many studies on people by reducing their calorie intake with intermittent fasting, which has shown that IGF-1 can be cut by a half with fasting for four days every two months or so.
Of course, by also eating a more plant based diet, IGF-1 is also reduced more than in people who eat meat daily.
Michael Mosley tries out the theory that Professor Longo suggests, and just as Professor Longo said, his IGF-1 levels are cut in half by just four days of fasting, when he takes in just 50 calories a day.
That’s a single cup-a-soup each day.
Mosley is then inspired to find an easier way of getting the same IGF-1 reduction in an easier way, and he comes across another theory that suggests a five day feeding and two day fasting diet, which gives him the same amount of IGF-1 reduction without the difficulty of a four day fast.
His health risk factors are therefore cut to the same as the diet Professor Longo adopts.
Finally he meets a nutritional expert who uses an alternate day fasting approach.
She suggests that on fast days, the person eats a reduced amount of calories which are all to come from healthy and natural foods.
On the feed days, the person can eat as much as they want to, and they can eat whatever they want.
Although this does not have the same benefits in IGF-1 reduction as the more strict fasting diets, this diet does help with weight and cholesterol control, blood pressure, diabetes and lowers the risk of cancer and cardiovascular illness, but not quite to the levels of the 5 day 2 day or 2month 4 day diets.
As crazy as it first sounds, the research then suggests that by starving your body for short periods with intermittent fasting, you could live for longer.
Diabetes risk, which is one of the most common illnesses is vastly reduced when fasting and so we will cover this in a separate fourth article.
But do remember, if you are diabetic or have any other illness, you must consult a medical practitioner before fasting and should get advice and be monitored during the fasting periods to ensure that you are not putting yourself at risk.
At Amchara Retreats, we have been using this fasting theory for some time as part of our detox programs, and the regime that we have chosen to adopt is juice fasting, which allows you to take in calories from natural homemade juices.
Juices have an extremely high nutritional value, and when you look at Professor Longo’s theories about starving the body of protein and a reduction in IGF-1, a juice fasting regime should have the same effects and cut your risk of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases to a level that could see you never suffering from these problems.
Juice fasting involves fasting for several days in a row, with natural juices being your only calorie intake.
Of course, the ingredients in the juice will be a range of fruit and vegetables, meaning no protein for several days.
Mandala Magazine has a very interesting juice fasting article, which says, juice fasting eliminates the usual mucous forming foods from our diet, such as refined flour, sugar, caffeine, or any intoxicant, and stimulates the digestive tract to be normally active, further reducing the presence of the irritating substances and the excess mucus that results.
If you are interested in coming to a detox retreat which includes juice fasting, exercise classes, nutritional talks as well as various super foods incorporated into juices such as wheatgrass.
You can however do juice fasting and other fasting diets at home, but again, ensure that you consult your GP before doing so to make sure that you are healthy enough to fast and to have regular monitoring throughout.
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- Fabulous fasting: An introduction
- Fabulous fasting: The mental benefits
- Beneficial Effects of Fasting on Diabetic Patients
- Is Water Fasting Out Dated Now There is the Pretend Fast
- Intermittent Fasting - A Natural Way To Live For Longer
- Reverse Insulin Resistance with Intermittent Fasting
- New Year New You: Could Fasting Help You Lose Weight?
- Water Fasting may help you live longer