Mind and Body

Is intermittent fasting the longevity life hack we’ve been waiting for?

Diving into the science behind 2019's favorite diet. 

GeorgePeters / Getty Images

Intermittent fasting was Google’s top-searched diet of 2019. A growing number of people are curious about — and trying — the restrictive eating pattern, but the science is struggling to catch up.

As Inverse reported in July 2019, preliminary research suggests intermittent fasting leads to an array of health benefits, including better metabolism, longer life, healthier brain, and less inflammation.

Inverse is counting down the 25 biggest stories of human potential of 2019. This is #12.

Intermittent fasting means interspersing periods of abstaining from food with periods of eating regularly. You could skip breakfast and eat a late lunch, for example, or fast all day long, once or twice a week.

The research suggests that intermittent fasting is a simple, effective life hack for solving many age-related problems, but the evidence is far from conclusive.

“There really is no one weird trick for the perfect diet for everyone,” John Newman, geriatrician at the University of California, San Francisco told Inverse. Science is leading us toward the idea of maintaining some flexibility in our body’s metabolism, he said.

“It’s probably a good idea to be doing different things at different times,” he said. “And this might be one of the reasons why intermittent fasting, for example, is metabolically helpful, because it forces your body to switch how it is using a fuel for energy.”

Intermittent fasting can help people lose weight. It may also help people stay sharper and healthier as they age. The practice triggers certain pathways in the brain that help cells become more equipped to deal with stress and resist disease.

“The bottom line is that, in the brain, intermittent fasting will increase the resistance of nerve cells to various types of stress,” Mark Mattson, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, told Inverse at the time. “It will enhance what we call synaptic plasticity or the formation of new synapses.”

Other studies show similar neuroprotective effects: Intermittent fasting can stimulate the production of neurotrophic factors and antioxidant cofactors that help cells cope with stress and resist disease. When it comes to aging, intermittent fasting has been linked to reduced inflammation and less accumulation of cells damaged by free radicals.

But like all diets, intermittent fasting is not for everyone, and comes with potentially dangerous risks. It can be uncomfortable, unsustainable, exacerbate disordered eating patterns, and may increase stress levels.

It’s not just intermittent fasting that shows these potential benefits. Studies on good old dietary restriction — simply eating less than normal — appear to work, too. The plant-based diet and Mediterranean diet have the strongest research around longevity and protecting against disease, experts said.

Eating lots of nutrient-rich foods like plants is more likely to help people live longer and healthier lives.

As 2019 draws to a close, Inverse is revisiting 25 striking lessons for humans to help maximize our potential. This is #12. Some are awe-inspiring, some offer practical tips, and some give a glimpse of the future. Read the original article here.

Related Tags
Share: