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Ask Dr. Nandi: Is fasting the fountain of youth?

Posted: 5:48 PM, Oct 01, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-01 21:48:02Z

If you’re looking to live a longer and healthier life, could fasting be the fountain of youth? Research certainly seems to be pointing in that direction, but is it too good to be true? 

What is the research on fasting?

There are several studies, some involve humans and others involve animals. Now animal research has shown that fasting mice actually do much better than non-fasting mic.  One study, in particular, found they were healthier and lived longer when compared to mice who could eat whenever they wanted. But we’re not mice.  

So let’s look at a recent study involving humans that took part in a "fasting mimicking diet." For five days they ate between 800 and 1,100 calories. They did this once a month for 3 months, and they ended up losing belly fat, their fasting blood glucose levels returned to normal, their cholesterol and triglycerides numbers dropped, as did their levels for 1GF1, which is a marker for different cancers. So pretty promising results.

Well those improvements sound like you’d live a longer life, right?

Certainly lowering your risks for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer would be very beneficial and potentially lead to a longer life. However, diseases are complicated. And the environment we live in plus our genetics can also affect long-term health. Basically, you can be healthy but still live a short life.  

Well overall this sounds pretty positive, but is it too good to be true, is there a catch here?  

As promising as these intermittent fasting studies sound, they are some concerns. The main one is that the studies are short-term. So we don’t know if there are any long-term positive or negative health effects.  There’s also a possibility of eating more on non-fasting days which could mean no health gains whatsoever. I know many people are looking for an easy fix or that miracle pill to make them healthy and extend their lifespan. But so far, nothing beats eating healthily which includes fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. And exercising regularly because a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to many chronic health conditions.