It is often said that change and growth only occur when individuals push beyond their comfort zone. Whether it’s professionally, by learning a new skill, traveling somewhere completely different or ramping up walking speed or distance, periods of discomfort help people thrive. Recent research has found that getting comfortable with fasting for intermittent periods can have a beneficial effect on health and longevity.
According to a recent Blue Zones article, research by Nobel Prize-winning cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi shows how during periods of fasting, cells break down proteins and other cell components and use them for energy. Starvation activates autophagy, which can help slow down the aging process and boost cell renewal as well as destroy viruses and bacteria and clear out damaged structures.
Autophagy is also associated with protecting against inflammation and improving brain function. Periods of fasting for between 12 and 24 hours can also help control high blood sugar and aid in weight loss. Autophagy can also inhibit cancer cells and eliminate pathogens while cleaning the insides of cells.
Many religious beliefs incorporate fasting in their practice; during Ramadan for example, Muslims fast during daylight hours for a period of 30 days. In many parts of the world known for their population’s longevity (blue zones), periodic short-term fasting may contribute to a lower incidence of disease and greater lifespan.
Longer periods of fasting should only be undertaken with a doctor’s supervision. The simplest way to conduct a fast is to stop eating at night three hours before bedtime and then not eat until the next day, confining all eating to within a 12-hour period. Dr. Valter Longo, the director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California recommends that people only eat two meals a day if they have a tendency to overeat.
Learn more about how to eat for longevity by following this link to Professor Longo’s website here. Be sure to check with your primary care provider before undertaking any change in eating habits.