Individuals who engage in calorie restriction tend to live longer. In fact, many cultures that regularly engage in such practices have shown to extend their lives.
However long-term calorie restriction does have its downsides. Aside from the general bummer of just not being able to eat as much, here are a few of the other problems that may follow chronic calorie restriction:
- Calorie counting (boring)
- Decreased energy levels
- Hunger pangs
- Loss of muscle mass
- Reduced bone mineral density
The good news is that you may not have to suffer through them to achieve a longer life. Recent research and empirical evidence suggests that fasting may produce the same longevity-boosting effects that calorie restriction does, but without any of those pesky side effects.
In the following sections, we review how fasting may help you to live longer and be free from ailments as far as practicable. What you can discover is that not eating does indeed produce all the same benefits of calorie restriction, and then some.
Extending your life expectancy
Fasting has shown to increase cellular stress response, which is impaired with age. Aging is cellular degradation; it’s quite simply a loss of function. Free radicals, which are toxic byproducts of metabolism, latch on to and destroy healthy cells and cause aging.
The moment that you’re born, the second law of thermodynamics, also known as the universal forces of entropy, which degrades all living things, begins to attack you. It’s just what it is, and you can’t do anything to change that. You can, however, choose to not accept death so easily. You do in fact have the equipment to defend yourself. This natural arsenal of weaponry to combat aging includes all the natural rejuvenation processes to fight off oxidative damage, such as the antioxidant system (any collection of enzymes that serve as a person’s natural cellular defense mechanisms). And guess what can help you use it to the fullest possible extent. You guessed it. Fasting is one of the two ways to combat premature aging (the other being exercise).
It’s no wonder nature favors the lean and wiry. Fasting is an acute stressor, much like exercise, and through stressors, your body can thrive. In fact, hunger and exercise are specifically the primal rejuvenation triggers. Studies have shown, again and again, that the human body flourishes when faced with physical and nutritional challenges. In fact, a 1982 study found that mice fed every other day outlived mice fed regularly by 82 percent. This rejuvenation happens through the process of autophagy (refer to the earlier section, “Regenerating the brain” for more information).
Furthermore, eating, especially heavy eating, actually hastens the aging process. Too much insulin and mTOR overactivity speed up the rate of cellular degradation. And so, as you may expect, people combat aging by not eating.
Here are some of the positive physiological benefits brought about from a lack of food:
- Cellular cleansing and tissue rejuvenation
- Improved body composition
- Increased energy efficiency
- Increased resistance to fatigue
Physical hardship, or stress, isn’t what kills people. Pleasures are what kill people. Overindulgence is what kills people. Through stress, people thrive, and hardship makes the body grow stronger. In other words, those people who eat less tend to live longer. But there’s more to it than that. People who eat less also tend to live healthier.
Fasting may not only help you live longer, but be healthier as well. It’s very difficult to live long if you’re relatively unhealthy, so fasting also makes sense to ward off illness. As a matter of fact, fasting is perhaps the world’s oldest cure-all and the most potent natural remedy for whatever ails you. Everyone actually has a natural inclination to resist food when they’re ill. These sec- tions specifically identify two main ways that fasting can help you fend off disease.
Fasting restores proper pH balance in the blood. When the body’s pH bal- ance gets out of whack, misery is certain. Too much acidity in the blood can lead to acidosis, which often leads to many debilitating ailments like arthri- tis. Fasting works to clear acidosis from the bloodstream and to restore the proper alkaline-acidity environment needed for the body to thrive. None of this discussion on fasting stuff is new. Upton Sinclair wrote a book called The Fasting Cure in 1911, and, at the time, it was a bestseller. The only difference from then and now: People have the technology and the science to validate what has always been know — fasting is very good for you.
Keeping insulin levels in check
Fasting helps to ward off the odds of disease by fixing the root problem of almost all diseases — too much insulin brought about by too much food. Fasting controls insulin levels, and, in turn, improves insulin sensitivity. And you also know that unchecked insulin levels lead to insulin resistance. Here are just a few diseases linked to insulin resistance:
- Breast cancer
- Heart attack
- Metabolic syndrome
- Prostate cancer
Decreasing chronic inflammation
Fasting also helps to reduce chronic inflammation, which many doctors say is the true number-one killer in the United States. In fact, fasting, as well as calorie restriction with a healthy, low-glycemic diet, such as the Paleo Diet or Mediterranean Diet, can control chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to any harmful stimuli, rang- ing from a bacterial infection to a bump on the head. Inflammation not only serves as a protective-casting mechanism (such as when you stub your toe
and the toe reddens), so that you don’t reinjure yourself, but also has the job of hunting down pathogens and breaking down tissue.
When it comes to eating, everything you put into your body matters. It either serves to better you or injure you. Your health is largely the accumulation of all the food decisions you’ve ever made.
Dealing with illness and injury: Acute inflammation
Acute, or short-lived, inflammation is necessary to handle and correct injury and illness. Here are a few instances that can bring about acute inflammation:
- Allergies and other irritants
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Burns or frostbite
- Cuts, scrapes, and lacerations
- Physical injuries (falling off a bike, stubbing your toe, and so on)
- Inhibited or loss of function
Lasting long-term: Chronic inflammation
The problem though is more with chronic inflammation where the inflammation doesn’t turn off, but instead becomes a constant low-level and systemic occurrence. Chronic inflammation is when your own defense mechanism turns against you.
Here are some of the diseases linked to chronic inflammation:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Fatty liver
- Metabolic syndrome
- Various forms of cancer
Inflammation obviously is a complicated matter and one that scientists don’t fully understand. But as more and more evidence emerges, it’s becoming abundantly clear that chronic inflammation plays a very significant role in the progression of illness and disease.
And you probably aren’t surprised to hear that chronic inflammation is closely tied to overeating and obesity. Once again unchecked insulin levels are largely to blame. Here are some of the other causes of inflammation:
- Poor food choices, including eating too much and eating low-quality and toxic foods
- High amounts of stress
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of exercise/movement