Diets and Aging

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Whether the focus is on improving telomere length, reducing senescent cells, improving dysfunctional mitochondria or improving other factors that contribute to aging, diet is an important part of the plan. Calorie restriction offers benefits, but in the long run, a program of intermittent fasting is less likely to cause nutrient deficiencies without the need to starve, count calories or avoid certain foods. That said, I was disappointed to read that eating bacon or sausage for breakfast daily isn’t a wise choice.

The basic types of intermittent fasting include fasting every other day; following a Warrior Diet, where small amounts of fruits and vegetables are eaten until 4 pm when a participants can eat a large meal; the Fast Diet where followers consume 500 calories on 2 days (separated by breaks of 2 or 3 days) and follow a normal diet for 5 days; and my preferred plan, which is the 16/8 or Leangains Protocol where people eat normally for 8 hours and fast for the duration although if you’re older these times can vary. At my advanced age a fast of 12-15 hours is adequate.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

One of the best benefits of both intermittent fasting and calorie restriction is an increase in brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Increased levels of BDNF, which is a growth factor, help protect against Alzheimer’s disease by boosting the survival of existing brain cells (neurons), regenerating new neurons and forming new synaptic connection so that the cells of the central nervous system can communicate. Other benefits of intermittent fasting include a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Reductions in body weight and inflammation also benefit connective tissue disorders, including arthritis.

During intermittent fasting, insulin levels fall, levels of norepinephrine rise, and ketone production is increased as the body adapts by using the energy reserves of glycogen that are stored as fat rather than on glucose. The National Institute on Aging reports that ketones help cells, particularly brain cells, work at full capacity and may inhibit the development of cancer because malignant cells, which thrive on glucose, cannot obtain energy from ketones. However, too many ketones can have harmful health effects over time, particularly a rise in unhealthy lipids, which can make intermittent fasting a healthier option than a keto diet.

While there are no long-term studies in humans, rats following an intermittent fasting protocol experienced a 3.6-14 percent rise in their metabolic rate and lived 36-83 percent longer than their peers who followed a regular diet. Mice following an intermittent protocol who were found to be eating the same amount of calories as their unrestricted companions had 28 percent less weight gain and less liver damage as the bingers. Ideally, though, people following an intermittent fasting protocol would be taking in fewer calories than their freely grazing pals.

Drawbacks of Intermittent Fasting

While relying on a nutrient-rich diet and taking dietary supplements are important in a healthy approach to aging, individuals with diabetes or eating disorders or who are pregnant or breastfeeding should check with their doctors before making any dietary changes. Dehydration can occur if not enough fluids are consumed, the meals aren’t nutrient-rich, or if the period of fasting is extended for too long. Some people may have mood changes especially early on if they’re used to eating a steady diet of refined carbs all day long.

My Experience

During the social isolation caused by Covid, I’ve found myself eating much like the rat bingers. To follow the intermittent fasting protocol, I signed up for a 7-day free trial of an app at Simple Life App for one dollar choosing the boost health option. There’s also an option for losing weight that I probably should have chosen.

So far the app warned me I had to wait to eat lunch until 2:30 pm since I had breakfast at 9:30 am. I don’t have to document what I eat but the reminders keep me from snacking all day and they encourage me to drink more fluids. I can eat my usual meals although I must list snacks and meals until my cutoff at 9 pm. After 7 days, which should be all I need to read all their helpful articles, they’ll charge $33 quarterly unless I cancel, which is a simple click on the app under manage account. Compared to the $250 plan at Farmacy, one dollar seemed a safe investment for increasing longevity.