Can Intermittent Fasting Make You Live Longer?

intermittent fasting

Hype

The buzz around intermittent fasting has escalated dramatically. From a weight loss miracle to an anti-aging enigma, social media is flooded with wellness blogs supporting this health trend. Fitness enthusiasts have labeled intermittent fasting as the solution to improved health and longevity. Celebrities like “Friends” actress Jennifer Aniston and former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey swear by the benefits of this fasting regimen.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting follows an eating pattern that switches between periods of feeding and fasting. Unlike traditional diets centered on what to eat or avoid, this strategy emphasizes when to eat. One of the most popular intermittent fasting plans is the 16:8 diet. In this, you fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8-hour window without worrying about the calories.

Intermittent fasting is surprisingly easy to follow. You don’t have to scrutinize nutritional labels anymore, and you might also save some extra bucks on the food bill. Allured by the convenience and anti-aging benefits, people in pursuit of healthy aging are incorporating intermittent fasting into their lifestyle.

However, the prodding question remains. Is intermittent fasting linked to increased lifespan? Can it delay aging or is it another fleeting fad?

Expert Analysis: Decoding the Hype

To investigate more on the subject, we turned to an expert in the field, Dorothy Sears, Professor of Nutrition at Arizona State University College of Health Solutions and Adjunct Professor at the Department of Family Medicine & Public Health UC San Diego. “I would say it’s (effect of intermittent fasting on slowing down aging) promising because, for example, if you could delay the onset of type 2 diabetes, you would probably extend that person’s life because we know that type 2 diabetes shortens the lifespan. If you could delay the onset of cancer, you would probably extend that person’s life. So, I would say it’s very promising,” the expert elucidated, offering a perspective on the effect of intermittent fasting on aging. 

Intermittent fasting, upon closer examination, reveals a complex interplay with our biological processes. Dr. Sears highlights that the robust evidence supporting intermittent fasting benefits originates from mouse studies, stating, “The evidence in mouse models is extremely strong, and the accumulating data in humans is suggestive.”

Major factors implicated in aging include elevated levels of glucose, insulin, and diseases associated with obesity, as well as neurodegenerative and cardiovascular ailments. These conditions show potential for mitigation through intermittent fasting in humans. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the majority of these potential benefits have been observed in mice and are currently under exploration in human studies.

The Science: Mechanisms Linking Intermittent Fasting and Aging

To break down the science behind the trend, we have outlined several ways in which intermittent fasting affects aging-related outcomes. One such mechanism is that this fasting regimen synchronizes food intake with our body’s natural circadian rhythm. This optimizes nutrient processing when metabolic efficiency is highest.

"One of the benefits of intermittent fasting, when it is aligned with circadian biology, is that you have the food being consumed in the daytime and not during the nighttime, so you keep the food and the nutrient introduction during the time when the body is best able to handle it."

Furthermore, nighttime eating increases susceptibility to many aging-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Following an intermittent fasting strategy that restricts nighttime eating can help prevent such diseases and promote longevity.

Intermittent fasting’s benefits may come from a well-preserved stress-response and nutrient-sensing pathway. This pathway helps the body switch from storing energy to using it, partly by boosting autophagy and cellular recycling. Thus, during fasting periods, heightened autophagy rates could lower the risk of age-related diseases and improve cellular repair.

The Verdict: Evaluating Intermittent Fasting's Promise in Slowing Aging and Extending Lifespan

Research suggests intermittent fasting may offer health benefits by slowing aging and delaying disease onset. This might occur via fasting facilitated periodic shifts in metabolic fuel sources, promoting repair mechanisms, and optimizing energy utilization for cellular and overall health, according to Di Francesco et al. (2018), in their study published in Science.

Studies indicate that intermittent fasting may combat aging processes. It has been implicated that prolonged intermittent fasting can work against certain hallmarks of aging by inducing autophagy, reducing inflammation, decreasing senescence markers, etc. A study conducted on 25 healthy young males supports its potential as an anti-aging intervention.

While mouse studies demonstrate impressive results, applying these findings to humans requires rigorous testing. Dr. Dorothy Sears notes the need for large-scale human studies. “We are still learning about what fasting regimens are ideal (e.g., fasting length, fasting/eating start time), for whom, and for what health condition. It is only recently that large human studies have been initiated and findings from these studies will emerge in a few years. To date, most human studies are very small and statistically underpowered for outcomes they report.”

Currently, researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the University of Alabama at Birmingham are conducting the DiAL-Health study to investigate whether fasting for 16 hours a day slows aging in humans.

Such ongoing trials will provide a definitive answer on whether intermittent fasting truly holds the key to the fountain of youth.

Contributors

  • Sheena Shah
    : Author
    Sheena Shah is a creative writing enthusiast with a master's in Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. She loves everything science and literature, from dabbling in the depths of genetic code to painting lively landscapes with words. Through her writing, she tries to whisk readers away to worlds both real and imagined.
  • Sarita Menon, Ph.D.
    Dr. Sarita Menon is the founder, and Head of Content at Smore Science. With a PhD in cancer research and over 15 years of experience Dr. Menon has honed her skills as a science communicator focused on making complex and important science engaging and understandable to all. Whether reviewing article ideas, working with writers, or editing pieces herself, Dr. Menon’s guiding vision shapes the informative yet captivating content published across both the website and print magazine.

Copyright @smorescience. All rights reserved. Do not copy, cite, publish, or distribute this content without permission.


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