Let’s leave the digital age for a moment and rewind to the Paleolithic era, when our primitive ancestors hunted and gathered and food was scarce. Selection pressure was demanding, and up until around 10,000 years ago the homo sapiens species was evolving, shaping our DNA code and mastering pitch-perfect gene expression. With the introduction of civilization and the subsequent reliance on a grain-based diet, as well as advances in medicine and technology, selection pressure vanished, putting the breaks on evolution.
What are we to make of all this? Our genetic prescription for anti-aging is tied to the dietary habits of our primitive ancestors…pretty much right where it left off 10,000 years ago.
Our ancestors didn’t scarf down heaps of food in the form of three square meals a day with snacks in between. They ate when food was available, and fasted when it wasn’t. Intermittent fasting was a part of life not so much by choice, as by necessity.
Let’s return to the digital age, where we find an emerging group of proponents rallying for intermittent fasting as a solution to aging and disease. These days, intermittent fasting is the conscious choice to skip meals. There are many different ways to intermittent fast: you can consume calories at a specified interval during the day (such as eating from noon to 7 pm), or you can skip two meals like breakfast and lunch, thereby giving your body a 24-hour food fast.
The attraction of intermittent fasting grows when you consider its anti-aging benefits:
How Intermittent Fasting Works
A well-fed body can have a negative effect on the insulin response. When food is copious, your cells can become resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance is the first step toward type 2 diabetes, blocks the release of anti-aging hormones, and triggers oxidative stress and systemic inflammation, two of the primary instigators in aging and illness. On the contrary, when your body senses that food is scarce (like when you skip a meal and actually let hunger occur) your cell membranes can become more insulin sensitive so that food is burned and stored efficiently.
When you intermittent fast, you send the signal to the body that food is scarce, which activates genetic repair mechanisms that combat aging and disease. The body releases human growth hormone (HGH), which accelerates metabolism and fat burning, regenerates tissue, and strengthens muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. HGH and insulin are counterregulatory hormones. Too much insulin depletes your anti-aging HGH reserves. Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, inhibits an insulin release, increases HGH levels, and encourages cell rejuvenation and discourages cell proliferation (the rapid dividing and multiplying of cells—including cancer cells!).
A study conducted at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute confirmed the link between intermittent fasting and HGH. Men who fasted for 24 hours exhibited a 2000% increase in circulating HGH, while woman enjoyed a 1300% increase in HGH. Participants also had lower triglycerides, higher HDL, and balanced blood sugar.
How to Intermittent Fast
If you are new to intermittent fasting, start by skipping breakfast. See how long you can go before your hunger beckons. If your last meal was 8 pm yesterday and you make it until noon, you’ve intermittent fasted for 16 hours! Those who practice intermittent fasting as a lifestyle typically fast for 16-18 hours one day a week, and work up to a weekly 24-hour fast.