Recently, I came across a text that mentioned that fasting was not a therapeutic tool. Well, that’s wrong. Fasting can be a therapeutic tool, but it can also be part of a healthy lifestyle without the question of treatment or protocol.
Its therapeutic use was popularized in recent years by a Toronto physician, Dr. Jason Fung. After completing his medical studies, he completed a specialization in nephrology in California. His specialization in nephrology, kidney medicine, has led him to treat obese and diabetic patients with medication or bariatric surgery. Looking for a way to make them lose weight and allow them to maintain their weight and their blood sugar levels over time, he became interested in fasting. So, he studied the biological effects of fasting, the clinical applications and decided to start prescribing it. His book, The Complete Guide to Fasting, grew out of his research for information, but most importantly, his clinical experience.
It is therefore possible to use fasting as a therapeutic tool, including prolonged fasting under medical supervision, but also, to integrate it into your lifestyle as a means of controlling body weight and increased longevity. In my sixth article on fasting, I’ll tell you about:
- Its link with research on longevity,
- Fasting from a biological point of view,
- The development of metabolic flexibility,
- Natural mimicry which can improve these beneficial processes,
- Integration of fasting into lifestyle habits, and
- My personal experience of the past two years, without treatment or protocol.
1. The link between longevity research and fasting.
Fasting causes metabolic changes which are beneficial, but did you know that they are directly related to the primary aging process? It both improves cellular repair and slows down aging. One of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world of medicine even recently published on the subject; that of which I will return to.
My field is research on cellular longevity and healthy lifestyles associated with healthy aging; how can we keep our capacities for as long as possible? Several researchers in basic research on fasting are also researchers on primary aging because the same mechanisms are linked to it.
An interesting example, related to the article I mentioned to you, are researchers Rafael de Cabo and Mark P. Mattson. Two researchers from the National Institute of Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, who are behind the review article that appeared in December 2019 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Why is this so important?
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) is one of the premier medical journals:
“Our mission is to publish the best research and information at the intersection of biomedical science and clinical practice and to present this information in understandable, clinically useful formats that inform health care practice and improve patient outcomes.”
To publish in this scientific journal, you must be considered a leading authority in your field and provide information that is useful for the practice of medicine. It is therefore an eloquent demonstration that fasting can be considered as a therapeutic approach.
2. Fasting from a biological perspective.
Fasting is very natural, and it was certainly ubiquitous during human evolution. It is obvious that humans did not eat three meals a day in addition to two snacks during the caveman days. We have evolved for thousands of years with the daily goal of finding food in order to survive. We just have to think of the television shows that put forest survival specialists in nature, for 3 weeks, with only a knife and a pot for cooking. They usually lose 10 to 15 kilograms because they are unable to eat enough. Thus, the human being has surely not evolved in abundance.
And so, we have developed mechanisms related to fasting during evolution. What is happening from a biological point of view? The body will first adapt to the lack of glucose by burning the glycogen stores in the liver (12 to 24 hours depending on energy demand). It will start to produce glucose from other sources like protein or fat; this is called gluconeogenesis. What is most interesting is the induction of the mechanisms of recycling (autophagy) and cell repair (including DNA repair).
The body, realizing that it is going to be low on energy, starts using energy reserves and all the maintenance and repair mechanisms to be able to get through a difficult period. It will also slow down the body’s urge to age. Repair more and age less; biologically speaking, fasting keeps you younger, longer.
3. Fasting and metabolic flexibility
Here it’s a matter of epigenetics. Epigenetics is the science of gene regulation. So, this is what is going to be read from our genetics and how often. For example, a person who does a lot of physical activity has better antioxidant capacities because physical activity generates oxidation and with frequency the body will continue to produce more antioxidants, even at rest.
For fasting, it is the genes that regulate the use of fat for energy, and other sources such as protein, that will be more readily available. It’s like a recipe book that contains your favorite recipe. If you do it often, you’ll keep the book handy, maybe even open on the right page, in the kitchen. Fasting will allow greater efficiency in using fat by keeping the necessary machinery and information in place. This therefore allows greater energy efficiency. I will come back to this with my own example.
4. Mimicry which can also improve metabolism (Vitoli Healthy Aging)
There are also molecules that can improve energy metabolism and stimulate maintenance and repair mechanisms. We called them, for about 20 years, calorie restriction mimetics (because it is from calorie restriction that the many beneficial effects were identified). However, their multiple effects in slowing primary aging, the body’s urge to age, have led us to now call them gerosuppressive agents; suppressants of aging. Because yes, by the way, lack of energy, fasting or calorie restriction reduces the body’s urge to age, what we call primary aging.
This is my area of research and we have an important program with Concordia University supported by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada. I am very proud to tell you that the best gerosuppressive agents currently known are in a product that I myself have developed, and that you can find in around 2000 points of sale in Quebec, including all the major pharmacies and many natural food stores in Quebec. It’s called: Vitoli® Healthy Aging.
5. Integration of fasting into lifestyle habits
Making fasting part of your lifestyle is easier than you might imagine. The first step is to realize that we are conditioned to eat at certain times of the day. You will therefore be hungrier at midday because you are used to eating at midday. One of the best tips is to consume bone broth when it’s time to eat so that you can do something different that will help meet the conditioning needs. By going there gradually, you will find it easier and easier to do longer and longer periods.
6. My personal experience
I’ve always had a smooth time skipping breakfast, so it’s easy. At lunch, I noticed that if I wait until 2:00 p.m., I will easily make it to supper. So, I skipped lunch about 2 times a week for several weeks and then did it 3 or 4 times a week. Now it’s 5 times a week.
After a year, I have noticed that I am able to work out without having eaten all day. I never would have been able before. I would have gotten dizzy from the low blood glucose. This is called increased metabolic flexibility. I trained my body to draw on different energy stores more easily. However, it is important to take it gradually and take the time to adjust to not eating.
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- Bagherniya M, Butler AE, Barreto GE, Sahebkar A. 2018. The effect of fasting or calorie restriction on autophagy induction: A review of the literature. Ageing Res Rev. 2018;47:183‐197.
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- Stekovic S, Hofer SJ, Tripolt N, et al. 2019. Alternate Day Fasting Improves Physiological and Molecular Markers of Aging in Healthy, Non-obese Humans [published correction appears in Cell Metab. 2020 Apr 7;31(4):878-881]. Cell Metab. 2019;30(3):462‐476.