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Intermittent Fasting for Longevity

Last year, I wrote about Intermittent Fasting for Reducing Autoimmunity as it is an effective approach in my practice for patients’ whose immune system is attacking their own bodily tissues. But did you also know that intermittent fasting appears to increase one’s lifespan? Let’s discuss! 

Longevity studies have been going on for almost a century, and it’s no secret that aging can be ameliorated by lifestyle, dietary, genetic, and pharmacological interventions (Fontana et al., 2014; Goldman et al., 2013; Partridge, 2010). Yet, in the United States, the pillar that gets the most education and training in the conventional medical community are prescription drugs. This has to change as we know so much more now than we did a century ago.

For instance, we know that simple, single-gene mutations can extend animal lifespan, ameliorating natural, age-dependent loss of function (Metaxakis et al., 2014; Stein and Murphy, 2012). Not to mention, these single-gene mutations can also prevent several pathologies, including neurodegeneration, one of the hallmark conditions of “aging-related diseases.” (Cohen et al., 2009; Killick et al., 2009; Menzies and Rubinsztein, 2010; Pinkston-Gosse and Kenyon, 2007; Stöhr et al., 2013). Now, of course, we can’t go in and snip our genes to make the perfect anti-aging genome. 

What we can do is recognize that by just making one simple lifestyle change can profoundly impact a person’s lifespan since there is a direct  interplay between our genes and the environment. How you live, not your genes itself, determines your destiny since your environment defines  which genes are activated or deactivated. For example, what you eat, how you move, breath, what you drink, how you handle stress, etc. directly impacts if you will live a long, happy, healthy life or a short, unhappy, miserable life. 

Healthy aging is well within the realm of possibility. In laboratory animal models of slowed aging, naturally long-lived species such as the naked mole rat, and some humans that achieve the age of 100 have all shown that a long life is not inevitably associated with late-life disability and dysfunction (Ikeno et al., 2006; Edrey et al., 2011; Ailshire et al., 2015). For instance, specific dietary interventions promote long life and healthy and graceful aging. Under these circumstances, the environment can be thought of as being aligned with the genes; they work synchronously, in concert with one another.

What is the specific dietary intervention? You might be surprised to know that it’s NOT a “eat-this-not-that” approach. It’s a “eat less” approach. Dietary restriction is the “official” name used in research, and it’s very similar to the idea of intermittent fasting. They are two sides of the same coin. In both cases, the digestive system is getting a significant period of rest time. This is healing.

Dietary restriction is typically implemented as a long-term and coordinated reduction of all dietary constituents except vitamins and minerals. Dietary restriction was first studied over 80 years ago to extend lifespan in both rats and mice and improve most aspects of health during aging (Fontana et al., 2010a; Ikeno et al., 2006; Maeda et al., 1985). 

Dietary restriction can yield substantial results with, for example, 30% of dietary restricted animals dying at old ages without gross pathological lesions, compared with only 6% of controls who could eat however much they wanted (Ikeno et al., 2006). Furthermore, when dietary restriction is implemented in young, adult Rhesus monkeys it greatly improves metabolic health, prevents obesity, delays the onset of muscle wasting, presbycusis (loss of hearing), and brain atrophy (natural brain shrinkage), and decreases the risk of developing and dying of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes (Colman et al., 2014; Mattison et al., 2012).

Could the same be true in humans? After decades of evidence showing immense potential in animals, dietary restriction was eventually looked at in people. In human studies, dietary restriction (again, without malnutrition since all vitamin/mineral targets are met) results in many of the same physiological, metabolic, and molecular changes associated with dietary restriction in animals, including, but not limited to: 

This would indicate that intermittent fasting increases lifespan and decreases the underlying inflammatory processes that make people sick and immobile over time.

Hence, people voluntarily undergoing long-term intermittent fasting with adequate nutrition (i.e., consuming at least 100% of the RDI for each essential nutrient) score significantly lower than people who don’t restrict their diet at all (i.e. controls) on multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease and cancer (Fontana et al., 2011). In short-term, randomized clinical trials in aging individuals, dietary restriction improves several markers of health (Heilbronn et al., 2006; Fontana et al., 2011), except for resistance to infection and wound healing, when an organism may need additional “resources” to repair and heal. 

Dietary interventions like a “dietary restriction” or “intermittent fasting” should not incite panic; it is not about self-deprivation, misery, and hunger. It’s a simple fast you can shift around to meet your needs. And if the word “fast” still creates a little distress, think of it as intermittent feeding instead. Without even realizing it, this approach naturally helps us eat less and use more out of what we supply our body. The goal is not to starve you because inadequate nutrition does increase the risk of impaired menstrual and reproductive function, osteoporotic bone fractures, anemia, and cardiac arrhythmias (Fairburn and Harrison, 2003). 

Focus on having real, yummy, nutrient-dense plant-based food where you avoid eating for 12 to 16 hours at night, and make your day’s last meal (i.e., dinner) your smallest one.  This is probably the single most effective way to start improving your health and longevity. 

Dr. Bhandari and the Advanced Health Team Are Here to Support Your Health.

Our expert team of integrative holistic practitioners work with patients suffering from chronic health concerns.  We help our patients reverse disease by better understanding how the body optimally functions and providing personalized treatment plans. To learn more and book an appointment, contact Advanced Health or call 1-415-506-9393.



References

 

Ailshire, J. A., Beltrán-Sánchez, H., Crimmins, E. M., & Kritchevsky, S. (2015). Becoming centenarians: disease and functioning trajectories of older US Adults as they survive to 100. Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biomedical Sciences and Medical Sciences, 70(2), 193-201.

 

Cava, E., & Fontana, L. (2013). Will calorie restriction work in humans?. Aging (Albany NY), 5(7), 507.

 

Cohen, E., Paulsson, J. F., Blinder, P., Burstyn-Cohen, T., Du, D., Estepa, G., ... & Masliah, E. (2009). Reduced IGF-1 signaling delays age-associated proteotoxicity in mice. Cell, 139(6), 1157-1169.

 

Colman, R. J., Beasley, T. M., Kemnitz, J. W., Johnson, S. C., Weindruch, R., & Anderson, R. M. (2014). Caloric restriction reduces age-related and all-cause mortality in rhesus monkeys. Nature communications, 5(1), 1-5.

 

Edrey, Y. H., Hanes, M., Pinto, M., Mele, J., & Buffenstein, R. (2011). Successful aging and sustained good health in the naked mole rat: a long-lived mammalian model for biogerontology and biomedical research. ILAR journal, 52(1), 41-53.

 

Fairburn, C. G., & Harrison, P. J. (2003). Eat Disorders. Lancet, 361, 407-416.

 

Fontana, L., Colman, R. J., Holloszy, J. O., & Weindruch, R. (2011). Calorie restriction in nonhuman and human primates. In Handbook of the Biology of Aging (pp. 447-461). Academic Press.

 

Fontana, L., Kennedy, B. K., Longo, V. D., Seals, D., & Melov, S. (2014). Medical research: treat ageing. Nature News, 511(7510), 405.

 

Fontana, L., Partridge, L., & Longo, V. D. (2010a). Extending healthy life span—from yeast to humans. science, 328(5976), 321-326.

 

Goldman, D. P., Cutler, D., Rowe, J. W., Michaud, P. C., Sullivan, J., Peneva, D., & Olshansky, S. J. (2013). Substantial health and economic returns from delayed aging may warrant a new focus for medical research. Health affairs, 32(10), 1698-1705.

 

Heilbronn, L. K., De Jonge, L., Frisard, M. I., DeLany, J. P., Larson-Meyer, D. E., Rood, J., ... & Greenway, F. L. (2006). Effect of 6-month calorie restriction on biomarkers of longevity, metabolic adaptation, and oxidative stress in overweight individuals: a randomized controlled trial. Jama, 295(13), 1539-1548.

 

Hunt, N. D., Li, G. D., Zhu, M., Levette, A., Chachich, M. E., Spangler, E. L., ... & de Cabo, R. (2012). Effect of calorie restriction and refeeding on skin wound healing in the rat. Age, 34(6), 1453-1458.

 

Ikeno, Y., Lew, C. M., Cortez, L. A., Webb, C. R., Lee, S., & Hubbard, G. B. (2006). Do long-lived mutant and calorie-restricted mice share common anti-aging mechanisms?—a pathological point of view. Age, 28(2), 163.

 

Killick, R., Scales, G., Leroy, K., Causevic, M., Hooper, C., Irvine, E. E., ... & Stephenson, J. (2009). Deletion of Irs2 reduces amyloid deposition and rescues behavioural deficits in APP transgenic mice. Biochemical and biophysical research communications, 386(1), 257-262.

 

Kristan, D. M. (2008). Calorie restriction and susceptibility to intact pathogens. Age, 30(2-3), 147.

 

Maeda, H., Gleiser, C. A., Masoro, E. J., Murata, I., McMahan, C. A., & Yu, B. P. (1985). Nutritional influences on aging of Fischer 344 rats: II. Pathology. Journal of Gerontology, 40(6), 671-688.

 

Mattison, J. A., Roth, G. S., Beasley, T. M., Tilmont, E. M., Handy, A. M., Herbert, R. L., ... & Barnard, D. (2012). Impact of caloric restriction on health and survival in rhesus monkeys from the NIA study. Nature, 489(7415), 318-321.

Menzies, F. M., & Rubinsztein, D. C. (2010). Broadening the therapeutic scope for rapamycin treatment. Autophagy, 6(2), 286-287.

 

Mercken, E. M., Crosby, S. D., Lamming, D. W., JeBailey, L., Krzysik‐Walker, S., Villareal, D. T., ... & Sabatini, D. M. (2013). Calorie restriction in humans inhibits the PI 3 K/AKT pathway and induces a younger transcription profile. Aging cell, 12(4), 645-651.

 

Metaxakis, A., Tain, L. S., Grönke, S., Hendrich, O., Hinze, Y., Birras, U., & Partridge, L. (2014). Lowered insulin signalling ameliorates age-related sleep fragmentation in Drosophila. PLoS Biol, 12(4), e1001824.

 

Partridge, L. (2010). The new biology of ageing. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365(1537), 147-154.

 

Pinkston-Gosse, J., & Kenyon, C. (2007). DAF-16/FOXO targets genes that regulate tumor growth in Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature genetics, 39(11), 1403-1409.

 

Stein, G. M., & Murphy, C. T. (2012). The intersection of aging, longevity pathways, and learning and memory in C. elegans. Frontiers in genetics, 3, 259.

 

Stöhr, O., Schilbach, K., Moll, L., Hettich, M. M., Freude, S., Wunderlich, F. T., ... & Udelhoven, M. (2013). Insulin receptor signaling mediates APP processing and β-amyloid accumulation without altering survival in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Age, 35(1), 83-101.

Author
Payal Bhandari M.D. Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is one of U.S.'s top leading integrative functional medical physicians and the founder of San Francisco' top ranked medical center, SF Advanced Health. Her well-experienced holistic healthcare team collaborates together to deliver whole-person personalized care and combines the best in Western and Eastern medicine. By being an expert of cell function, Dr. Bhandari defines the root cause of illness and is able to subside any disease within weeks to months. She specializes in cancer prevention and reversal, digestive & autoimmune disorders. Dr. Bhandari received her Bachelor of Arts degree in biology in 1997 and Doctor of Medicine degree in 2001 from West Virginia University. She the completed her Family Medicine residency in 2004 from the University of Massachusetts and joined a family medicine practice in 2005 which was eventually nationally recognized as San Francisco’s 1st patient-centered medical home. To learn more, go to www.sfadvancedhealth.com.

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