Fasting and Ageing

The sound of my murmurming stomach is a familiar one now that I am halfway through the fasting month of Ramadhan. For Muslims fasting is a regular and established part of the calendar year, and is met with many happy wishes sent between loved ones for a good fast. So it does make it all the more intreasting for me to see how others not accustomed to fasting react to undertaking a trial fast themselves – given that it is not the most instinctive human action to deny yourself a natural craving of food. Thus, glad I was when I caught the last bit of BBC Horizon programme “Eat, Fast and Live Longer” the other night that looked at the power of alternating fasting for long-term heath benefits, anti-aging and prolonged life.

 Presenter Micheal Moseley who was the ‘live lab’ testing the correlation between fasting and aging admitted he was “…not keen”  at the prospect of fasting as he was not sure he would enjoy it, and concerned at whether fasting was in fact healthy for the body. I sympathised with Michael as I guess I would have had the same reservations if I had not experienced fasting before.

Michael stuck to a 5:2 diet for 5 weeks, which meant he ate his regular diet for 5 days of the week and for the other 2 days had a restricted intake of 600calories.

The result? Michael lost almost a stone in body weight, his blood markers showed reduced glucose and cholesterol levels. Also, Michael’s IGF-1 indicator was cut by 50%; this is significant as IGF-1 is a growth hormone that studies have shown to be higher in cancer diagnosed patients (mainly prostrate and breast cancer) and elevated the risk of detrimental aging. Thereby, by the end of Michael’s trial he had effectively accomplished mitigating his likelihood of contracting age related illnesses like diabetes and cancer with this minimal lifestyle change.

What’s more, another interesting fact from the programme was the indication from microanalysis that showed during the fasting period the persons body generates new nerve cells in the brain , which can delay onset of illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The programme naturally came with a disclaimer that not enough data research has been done on humans and it is not a ‘quick fix get thin’ solution for dieters. However, we all know that our genetics play an important role in how our body grows and ages but Michael Moseley effectively illustrates how our actions can still improve how we age.

I can not say I am entirely surprised by the results of the programme -anyone who has ever fasted, detoxed, or taken a cleansing diet in their lifetime would already have felt benefits. But, it was certainly interesting to see the science behind fasting as I don’t automatically look at it as an ‘anti-aging’ action. Always a booster to be reminded one is doing something healthy!

You can watch this programme on BBC iPlayer for one month, click here:


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