Alternative Fasting

Alternative fasting, also known as intermittent fasting, may indeed be the new Fountain of Youth. Back in 1934 some of the original studies on rats by Mary Crowell and Clive McCay at Cornell University indicated that rats fed a diet that was high in micronutrients but severely restricted in calories lived twice as long as their normal life expectancy. Not only did they live longer, they had a more youthful appearance. Roy Walford and Richard Weindruch, his student looked into the matter further in 1986. They found that calorie restriction delayed age-related diseases and kept the rats more active. In fact, they even wrote a book about it called “The Retardation of Aging and Disease by Dietary Restriction.”

While this all sounds too good to be true, there were also some other results of the calorie restricted diet. The mice did not grow to full size but were smaller than their counterparts fed a full calorie diet. Humans that participate in weight bearing exercises while fasting shows a propensity to have a delayed recovery time on their muscle mass than those that exercised in a non-fasting state. It seemed to disrupt the protein synthesis necessary for developing muscles.

Unless you’re a Buddhist monk, have strict command over your body or a practiced anorexic, you probably would find a fast quite difficult to maintain for a lifetime. In addition, they don’t know the long-term effects of fasting on people, just on animals. In response to the problem, scientists looked at the use of alternative or intermittent fasting as one method of receiving the benefits of fasting without some of the same side effects.

Intermittent fasting allows the person to severely restrict their caloric intake on one day and eat whatever they want on the next. For those that are already overweight, the fewer calories the better is the rule of thumb. In this case, the diet is plenty of water, coffee, tea and chew sugarless gum to curb cravings. People that don’t need to lose weight but want the benefits of the fast simply drop their calorie consumption to about 300 calories on their fasting day.

You probably can’t expect to look 22 again if you’re in your 60’s but you can get healthier according to studies on alternative fasting lowered triglyceride levels. In fact, it lowered them so much that the calorie restricted group ended up with the same levels as the lowest five percent of 20 to 30 year old Americans even though the youngest age for the group was 35 and the oldest 82. The group’s blood pressure dropped to an average of 100/60, their fasting insulin levels were 65 percent lower. In addition, they also had lower blood glucose levels. Even though the mean age of the group was 55, many of their health indicators showed them far younger.

When scientists studied the effects of intermittent fasting on people over the age of 65, they found that it improved memory if the people were overweight. It also decreased insulin levels and lowered inflammation. However, if the people were underweight it increased dementia risk.

While you may not look 22 again, the body seems to react well to the concept of eating less. Many studies found that it improved health as much as the highly touted resveratrol found in grape skins and red wine. It also produced many of the same effects in the body as doing weight training. Besides making you look and feel better, alternative fasting may also have one more benefit, a lower grocery bill.