Intermittent fasting seems to be trending nowadays but does it actually help reverse aging? Celebrities and health gurus swear by its weight loss properties. But it seems to be more powerful than that. Research now suggests that intermittent fasting may play a vital role in slowing down aging (ladies rejoice).
In this article, we will take a look at the evidence and explain why and how intermittent fasting can have anti-aging properties.
So how does Fasting slow down the Aging process?
When you eat, the body releases insulin to help break down sugar (glucose in particular) and convert it into energy. If the body doesn't use the glucose immediately, it stores it in fat cells. When you abstain yourself from eating for long periods of time, the body stops releasing insulin and starts breaking down fat cells for energy.
Intermittent fasting is one of the ways of facilitating this process. By cycling through periods of abstaining yourself from food with periods of normal eating, you enable the reduction of fat cells.
But, there is a difference between calories restriction during intermittent fasting and regular dieting. The latter can reduce calories by 20% to 40%, which isn't recommended by health professionals. On the other hand, research shows that calorie restriction during intermittent fasting supports five main mechanisms underlying anti-aging processes:
- Cell proliferation
- Mitochondrial physiology
Let's take a look at each of them.
1. Cell Proliferation
In this day and age, when we often find ourselves eating just to pass the time, cells are constantly in an anabolic state, meaning that they are building up. Intermittent fasting allows our bodies to shift the balance and enter a catabolic state.
The insulin-like growth-factor-1 (IGF-1) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) are impacted the most by calorie restriction. Intermittent fasting means that fewer calories will cause IGF-1 and mTOR downregulation. As a result, the cells and organelles start getting recycled.
Autophagy is a process during which the body removes old cells, organelles, and all sorts of junk that has accumulated over time. It also triggers the release of the growth hormone, which signals the body to create new cells. So your body literally heals itself when you're in a fasted state.
“When autophagy functions optimally, it works to clear away the cellular junk that can lead to fat and wrinkles”. Yaaay!
3. Mitochondrial Physiology
Mitochondria refer to organelles within the cells. These substructures are essential in producing cellular energy (ATP.) Aging affects the quality of the mitochondrial network, impairing its processes. Here's how calorie restriction can help.
AMP-dependent kinase (AMPK) and sirtuins (SIRT genes) are the two main pathways associated to mitochondrial network support. These pathways are extremely sensitive to shifts in the NAD+ / NADH ratio, a cofactor found in all cells. NAD+ accumulation increases during episodes of calorie restriction, which in turn enable AMPK and sirtuins.
What does that mean exactly? When the body starts breaking down glucose, cellular energy (ATP) decrease. AMPK can sense this shift and will reduce energy utilization while at the same time powering processes that replenish ATP. As a result, the mitochondrial network is improved and your body will produce better ATP in the future.
As we age, our natural antioxidant defense starts losing its powers. At the same time, the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) increases. A bit of ROS is actually beneficial for the body, but finding the right balance is often tricky.
Intermittent fasting can help strengthen our antioxidant defense by activating nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2,) which protect against oxidative damage.
Inflammation is not necessarily bad. In fact, in most instances, it is a way of signaling the body that it is time to take action. But, as we age, and damage in the body becomes more prevalent, inflammation can become chronic.
Intermittent fasting inhibits the production of nuclear factor-kB (NF-kB), which exerts known as the master regulator of inflammation. So, by reducing its activity, you automatically reduce inflammatory processes too.
Intermittent Fasting Can Increase Both Your Lifespan and Healthspan
Living longer isn't necessarily synonymous with living healthy. Lifespan refers to the amount of time we live while healthspan is the amount of time you are healthy and functional. You may very well live up to 100, but if the quality of life in the past 30 years was terrible, is it really worth it?
Intermittent fasting allows you to improve both of these aspects. As mentioned above, this is not just another weight-loss fad or a trick to looking young for longer. It is a holistic approach that considers the main mechanisms of the body and how they relate to each other.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand the benefits of intermittent fasting better and convinced you that they are worth exploring.
And keep in mind that hydration is important during fasting. Whether you are drinking water or an organic natural detox tea, make sure that you are getting plenty of fluids during this period.