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The anti-ageing benefits of fasting

Put the breaks on ageing - fast!
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April 7, 2021
4 min
Summary

Women Fasting is a crew of women who support each other towards the same goal: Improving our health through intermittent fasting.

Anita Tejani wrote the article of this week: Anita focuses on a scientifically-backed natural approach to health care. Her scientific research on obesity and microbiota has been published by the British Association of Nutritional Therapists.

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Written by
Anita Tejani Nutritionist

Put the breaks on ageing - fast!

We pull out that first grey hair. We run to the store to buy face lotions, potions and elixirs when we see that first wrinkle. We hide our sun spots with blouses or even concealers…

…we just don’t want to get older!

Now, what if there was another way to put the breaks on ageing? A way to slow down the whole process - from the inside?

Well, there is… but first, we have to dive a little deeper into the ageing process to understand why this ‘fix’ will work.

Tired old cells

As you get older, your body slows in its ability to repair damaged tissues (1). The resources to keep up with the onslaught of environmental factors, genes as well as the risk of disease, which increase the rate of cell turnover, are simply not available. On top of that, the body is already killing off millions of cells to clear out old ones on a daily basis.

With the resources it has, the body prioritizes the essential organs, and to the detriment of those non-essential ones.

Of course, we fully agree that our hair and skin should be considered essential - someone should inform the body of that! - but we guess that the heart, brain and lungs should get priority in the maintenance department. Moving on.

A higher demand on our bodies, with lower reserves for growth and repair as we age causes a number of age-related changes to happen, which we can see on the outside (2). Our:

  • hair follicles lose their ability to create pigment - hello greying;
  • skin loses its ability to remain elastic and supple - hello wrinkles; and
  • skin may lose pigment in some areas - hello sunspots and age-spots.

On the inside, there are also major changes as a result. It’s the reason we are at a higher risk of disease as we get older; a common worry during the ageing process.

So, how do we slow this process down?


With fasting!

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Intermittent fasting keeps you young

There are a number of ways that IF slows the ageing process:

1. Slows DNA damage

Just 14 hours of fasting each day has been shown to reduce the risk of DNA damage in a pilot study in 14 subjects (3).

After 4 weeks, researchers found that fasting increased the products of a specific DNA repair protein, reducing the risk of many diseases associated with DNA compromise.

2. Increases antioxidant supply

Remember the environmental toxins we mentioned earlier? It’s these factors that use up important compounds in the body called antioxidants. Antioxidants are major role-players in the anti-ageing process because they help to eliminate factors responsible for tissue damage. In other words, we can help our bodies to stay young by keeping antioxidant levels high!

IF has been shown to improve antioxidant supply. Going without food triggers the body’s survival response, hiking up the production of antioxidants, and in doing so, decreases the negative effects of free radical damage (4).

3. Improves muscle maintenance

Muscle wastage is a hallmark of ageing. From around the age of 40, we begin to lose muscle, in fact, over the next 40 years of life, most people will have lost 50% of their muscle mass as a result of an age-related condition called sarcopenia (5).

Weakness and loss of independence are a major consequence of this, and it is one of the major reasons for frailty.

IF may reduce this process due to the health benefits it has for mitochondrial function (6). The mitochondria, which provide energy for each and every cell in the body, decline in their ability to function with age, and are associated with one of the processes leading to sarcopenia.

4. Prevents obesity

Recent research has shown promising results for IF in the treatment of obesity (7).

Obesity as well as the co-existing condition metabolic syndrome, are well-known causes of inflammation. Inflammation leads to higher production of free radicals, tissue damage and risk of disease, all of which are associated with ageing.

Bottom line

Most people eat too frequently during the day and at night, which reduces the time that the body has to regenerate and repair.

Fasting for a set period allows the body the time it needs to perform critical functions related to health and wellbeing. It allows for adaptive cellular processes to take place, processes such as blood sugar regulation, stress resilience and modulation of inflammation that may have the greatest effect on the processes of ageing (8).

Not only are those benefits notable on what happens to the organs and tissues on the inside of our body, but these effects will surely be visible on the outside, too.

Here’s to both looking and feeling healthy, happy and youthful!

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References:

  1. National Institutes of Ageing. Strategic Directions for Research 2020-2025. Understanding the Dynamics of the Ageing Process
  2. van Deursen JM. The role of senescent cells in ageing. Nature. 2014;509(7501):439-446.
  3. Mindikoglu, A.L., Abdulsada, M.M., Jain, A. et al. Intermittent fasting from dawn to sunset for four consecutive weeks induces anticancer serum proteome response and improves metabolic syndrome. Sci Rep 10, 18341 (2020).
  4. Chaleckis R, Murakami I, Takada J, Kondoh H, Yanagida M. Individual variability in human blood metabolites identifies age-related differences. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Apr 19;113(16):4252-9.
  5. Walston JD. Sarcopenia in older adults. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2012;24(6):623-627.
  6. Lee, A., et al. Determinants of Adherence in Time-Restricted Feeding in Older Adults: Lessons from a Pilot Study. Nutrients 2020, 12, 874.
  7. Welton S, Minty R, O'Driscoll T, et al. Intermittent fasting and weight loss: Systematic review. Can Fam Physician. 2020;66(2):117-125.
  8. De Cabo, R., & Mattson, M. P. (2019). Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Ageing, and Disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 381(26), 2541–2551.

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