Fasting causes metabolic changes that are beneficial, but did you know that they are directly related to the processes of primary aging? It both improves cellular repair and slows down aging. One of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world of medicine has just recently published an article on the subject. I will revisit this.
In the first three articles on the topic, I explained the biological basis of fasting (Article 1), the reasons why fasting can be beneficial for health (Article 2) and the different types of fasting (Article 3). I will now tell you about the link between my area of research: aging.
Article from the New England Journal of Medicine
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) is the world’s largest medical journal:
- “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 delivery and improve patient outcomes.”
To publish in this scientific journal, you have to be considered an authority in your field and provide information that is of very high scientific quality. The article I was referring to earlier was published in December 2019, and is titled: Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease. I am going to highlight an important excerpt: “Here, we review studies in animals and humans that have shown how intermittent fasting affects general health indicators and slows or reverses aging and disease processes.”. You read correctly: slows or reverses aging and disease processes. What makes these health benefits so spectacular, to say the least, are the mechanisms of primary aging.
The cellular processes responsible for primary aging have been discovered thanks to caloric restrictions. We can consider fasting as a type of calorie restriction. The description of the mechanisms of action responsible for its benefits has made it possible to identify molecules capable of modulating these processes and therefore acting on aging. These are usually plant molecules, phytonutrients, which we call “calorie restriction mimetics“. This is my area of research. I am a researcher in the field of aging and we are identifying new modulators of primary aging from natural molecules that are found in certain plants (https://esimard.com/en/research/).
I recently covered this topic when I presented a recent scientific article published by European researchers. These researchers reported that hydroxytyrosol, the most important olive polyphenol, protects our cells from aging. Personally, I consider that research on primary aging is as important in human health as the discovery of stem cells 30 years ago. Stem cells are the cells that still have the ability to create new healthy cells for different tissues and to regenerate damaged organs. Regenerative medicine is evolving rapidly.
Slow down or reverse aging
For its part, research on primary aging helps slow down or reverse aging by reducing the incidence of associated diseases. The article in the New England Journal of Medicine explains the benefits of these processes, in this case, stimulated by fasting, on a multitude of health facets:
- Glucose management,
- The resistance of the organism,
- Oxidative defenses,
- Repair processes,
- Cognitive performance,
- Physical performance and
- Resistance to diseases.
Although research in this area began with an observation made in 1935, it is only very recently that the mechanisms responsible for primary aging have been identified (between 2010 and 2015). When there are significant changes to the grand scientific paradigms, it is not uncommon that it takes 15 years before we start teaching it in our universities. It is therefore normal that it seems completely new.
The link between fasting and aging
Primary aging is linked to our ability to grow and reproduce. So, in simpler terms, if the caloric intake is reduced, our body understands that its development capacity is limited and that it must:
- draw on its reserves (used from our stored fat),
- recycle everything it can reuse (this is called autophagy; which has many health benefits, among others in the fields of cancer and Alzheimer’s prevention),
- increase its resistance and
- repair as much as possible.
To understand aging, remember that we can group the processes within two main categories:
- the urge of the organism to age (which is linked to our capacity for development) which causes
- a reduction in our repair capacity.
When you fast, there is a metabolic change that slows down the growth mechanisms, the same mechanisms responsible for the body’s urge to age, which affect our repair mechanisms. At the same time, there is a stimulation of a large number of recycling and maintenance mechanisms in order to increase our chances of surviving a difficult period. Therefore, fasting slows down aging and increases our resistance against diseases.
In the next article, I will give you some recommendations to optimize the impacts of your lifestyle by considering fasting and calorie restriction mimetics.
- Anton SD, Moehl K, Donahoo WT, et al. 2018. Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2018;26(2):254‐268.
- 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.
- de Cabo et Mattson, 2019. Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease. New England Journal of Medecin. 381 (26), 2541-2551. 2019 Dec 26.
- de Pablos RM, Espinosa-Oliva AM, Hornedo-Ortega R, Cano M, Arguelles S. 2019. Hydroxytyrosol protects from aging process via AMPK and autophagy; a review of its effects on cancer, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, immune-mediated and neurodegenerative diseases. Pharmacol Res. 2019;143:58‐72.
- Leri M, Scuto M, Ontario ML, et al. 2020. Healthy Effects of Plant Polyphenols: Molecular Mechanisms. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(4):1250. Published 2020 Feb 13.
- Newgard, C.B., Pessin, J.E. 2014. Recent progress in metabolic signaling pathways regulating aging and life span. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. Jun;69 Suppl 1:S21-7. Review.
- Pallauf K, Giller K, Huebbe P, Rimbach G. 2013. Nutrition and healthy ageing: calorie restriction or polyphenol-rich “MediterrAsian” diet?. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2013;2013:707421.
- 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.