Can fasting make you live longer?

Can you increase your life span by drastically reducing your intake of calories?

Calorie restriction (CR) has been shown in several studies to extend the life span of many different species including mammals. People are starting to use it as a means to fight chronic disease and promote longer life.

Over 70 years of research shows that people who reduce the calories they eat by just 20% for two to six years lose body fat and unleash many anti-aging mechanisms in the body.

The history of caloric restriction goes back to 1934 when researchers at Cornell University observed that rats fed a diet that was severely reduced in calories (while maintaining micronutrient levels) resulted in life spans that were up to twice as long as normally expected.

That is why many health-conscious men are becoming more interested in CR and a technique called “intermittent fasting.” In fact, intermittent fasting (IF) has been shown to work better than just restricting calories all the time.

A “daily fast” and the 5:2 diet

Intermittent fasting means basically having set days and set timeframes that you fast, either eating no food or liquids or just drinking certain liquids. IF is easier than CR and can be applied in two different ways: creating eating windows or fasting one to two days per week.

With eating windows, you would go without food for 14 to 16 hours each day, eating, say, only brunch and dinner. Many integrative doctors with experience in their clinics recommend eating your first meal late morning at 11 AM or 12 PM and having your last meal at 7 or 8 PM. Do not eat for at least three hours before going to sleep. The daily fast would last 16 hours.

The health benefits of eating this pattern are that you give your body the time it needs –  six to eight hours – to metabolize stores of glycogen (for energy in your muscles) and carbohydrates.

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Once that’s done and your body knows it has energy and doesn’t need to store more, your body shifts to burning off fat. When you eat every couple of hours you keep replenishing glycogen, which makes it harder for your body to utilize fat stores for energy. In fact, it can signal your body that your food has no nutrition and that you need to store fat.

But once your body gets used to the IF eating pattern you may lose or decrease your cravings for food, and that especially includes sweets and junk food.

Related: The best reason to try intermittent fasting

The other method of IF is fasting one to two nonconsecutive days per week while eating normally the other five days.

This is often referred to as the 5:2 diet.

You would go without food for 24 hours or limit your caloric intake to 500-600 calories. If you choose to follow this program, eat dinner one night, and then do not eat until dinner at about the same time 24 hours later.

Health benefits of intermittent fasting

Besides the length of the life span, there are other health benefits to intermittent fasting. It can help your heart, energy, brain, and blood sugar control, plus it reduces inflammation. This, in turn, can help you prevent disease or manage any health problems that you have. Benefits of intermittent fasting include:

  1. Weight loss
  2. Reduced inflammation
  3. Increased control of blood sugar
  4. Improved brain function
  5. Optimized metabolism
  6. Burns off unnecessary fat and uses glycogen as your main source of fuel like nature intended
  7. Increased energy
  8. Better focus
  9. Improved blood pressure
  10. Great heart health and endothelial function
  11. Long-term appetite control
  12. Increased beneficial intestinal bacteria
  13. Lower core body temperature
  14. More lean muscle mass
  15. Increased human growth hormone
  16. Slower aging

It is also effective to combine intermittent fasting with high-intensity exercise. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to shift the body into becoming a fat-burning machine, and this is particularly true if you exercise while in a fasting state. By following intermittent fasting, your body is in a modified fasting state.

There are certain foods that support intermittent fasting. Even if you choose not to live in a fasting state, these foods will provide you with many health benefits and should be part of your diet. Foods that support a fasting state and optimum health include:

  • Soluble fiber
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Dark chocolate
  • Red wine
  • Black or green tea
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Supplements that are important include resveratrol, quercetin, grape seed extract, pterostilbene, and black tea extract.

The reason is that all of these are known to have a positive anti-aging effect on your genes and how they’re expressed through your life.

Adding supplements such as these to your intermittent fasting can help support your health and further reduce systemic inflammation in your body.

While some of it is the luck of the genetic draw, their longevity tells us that reducing your calories while eating a nutritious diet has been proven in real life to increase life span.

This style of eating, paired with exercise and the right supplements, can help boost your immunity and help your body fight many diseases and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity.

Making changes such as reducing calories or intermittent fasting is going to help you feel better, and when you feel better you are going to enjoy a more active lifestyle. This will all have a cumulative effect on your longevity and state of health.

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Craig Cooper

By Craig Cooper

Craig Cooper is a serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, author, and TV host of CNBC's "Adventure Capitalists". He is an “Ambassador” for both the global men’s health foundation “Movember” and 2XU, the performance sportswear company. He is the author of the Harper Collins book “Your New Prime: 30 Days to Better Sex, Eternal Strength, and a Kick-Ass Life After 40“. Follow Craig on Instagram @craigcooperrrr and Facebook.