The “Fast” Track to Extreme Longevity
There are pros and cons about extended fasts, but nearly everyone agrees that skipping meals or fasting gives your digestive system a rest and helps detoxify your system if your diet is unhealthy.
Fasting puts you on the path to maximum health, because what you eat, drink and breathe all have the potential to increase your toxic load. Ditto for what you put on your skin. Even though your lungs, liver, kidneys and your skin are designed to remove your toxins, they are stretched beyond their limits in today’s polluted world.
So it’s up to you to periodically cleanse your system if you want to keep toxins from prematurely aging you and making you sick. You can do this by either periodically fasting.
Simple and Easy Fasting
Fasting is simple and easy. I recommend short fasts. I fast one day a week—no food for 24 hours.
- If you abstain from food completely, drink only filtered water or distilled water and bone broth.
- For even better results, you might drink two to three large mugs of hot filtered water each fast day with two tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar and one teaspoon of raw honey, although I shy away from honey because of the high sugar content.
You can get the beneficial effects of caloric restriction (CR) if you eat as much as you want every other day and fast every other day. Besides being the only proven way to extend maximum lifespans in mammals, CR is also an effective way to dodge diabetes, heart disease and nearly every other disease associated with aging.
How to Miss Meals with Intermittent Fasting
Another form of fasting is going on a CR 7 eating schedule. This means you utilize a concept called “intermittent fasting” (IF) to redistribute and lose body fat and to simulate CR.
- Eat just two meals a day, about six hours apart.
- By doing so, you go on an 18 hour fast every day.
I started doing this a couple of weeks ago, and it’s a snap.
According to a 2005 article in Lancet, mice and rats maintained on an intermittent fasting regimen lived up to 30% longer than those fed otherwise.
On IF, the longest time you’ll ever abstain from food is 36 hours, although 17-18 hours is more common. Skipping breakfast is far easier and logistically and socially more acceptable, but avoiding dinner might be better from a health perspective.
Our genes are optimized for this type of feeding schedule. It takes about six to eight hours for your body to metabolize your glycogen stores, and after that, you actually start to shift to burning fat.
However, if you are replenishing your glycogen by eating every few hours, you make it far more difficult for your body to actually use your fat stores as fuel.
Surprisingly, hunger is not the problem you might think. Fasting also has a profound effect on your food cravings. It shifts cravings toward more subtle tasting, nutrient dense, satiety-promoting foods, which can then lead to a spontaneous decrease in your overall calorie intake.
When following an IF regimen:
- Make your diet low glycemic and high in plant-based foods.
- Eat whole foods, along with nutrient dense antioxidant foods.
- Don’t even think about IF if you eat the typical American portions of high glycemic junk food.
Importantly, our ancestors did not eat regular meals like we do today. They ate when they killed or found food and when they had some stored food left over. Extended periods between meals were normal.
Our bodies are still programmed to miss meals. That’s one reason you should break up your regular meal schedule or grazing with some type of intermittent fasting.
More Fasting Benefits
Could fasting for two days a week prevent age-related brain shrinkage, heart disease, diabetes, and possibly even cancer? New research suggests that fasting triggers a variety of health-promoting hormonal and metabolic changes.
Fasting has been shown to reduce:
- “Bad” LDL cholesterol
- Total cholesterol
- Inflammation levels
- Free radical damage
Fasting also normalizes your insulin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health. Insulin resistance (which is what you get when your insulin sensitivity plummets) is a primary contributing factor to nearly all chronic disease, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer.
Except for intermittent fasting, fasting usually does, but does not necessarily mean abstaining from ALL food, but rather a dramatic reduction of caloric intake. You should cut your daily calories at least in half, and preferably consume no more than 500-800 calories a day during your fasts. That’s not so tough, is it?
Hunger Protects Your Brain
“Suddenly dropping your food intake dramatically, cutting it by at least half for a day or so, triggers protective processes in the brain,” explains Professor Mark Mattson, head of neuroscience at the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
He adds, “It is similar to the beneficial effect you get from exercise.”
Hunger seems to benefit your physical shape and longevity similarly to physical exercise. When manipulated properly, hunger has shown to trigger mechanisms that increase your energy, repair your tissues and keep you in prime physical shape.
Interestingly, some of the mechanisms largely responsible for weight loss and diabetic control when fasting are also the ones responsible for the benefits to your brain.
Research suggests that caloric restriction can protect brain cells and make them more resilient against stress.
This protective effect is partly due to fasting’s effect on leptin and ghrelin; two hormones involved in appetite regulation. According to Professor Mattson, these hormones are also involved in the process of renewing brain cells—especially in the hippocampus—when you are not overweight.
This could help protect your brain against memory loss and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.