You already know that one of the healthiest things you can do to live long and avoid disease is to eat good whole food. But did you know there are two diet strategies you can use that might help even more?
New research shows that these two strategies can help you live longer and fight off chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis. And this research suggests these strategies might work even better than eating high-quality food. I know that’s hard to believe, but here’s the evidence.
In one study, Harvard scientists found that one of the best dietary habits you can have is to not eat. No, you don’t have to starve yourself. They used intermittent fasting.
To do the study, the scientists used a roundworm by the name of C. elegans. C-elegans has been used for years as a model for anti-aging experiments. In their experiment these researchers were able to show two important effects of not eating.
One, it increases AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase). AMPK is a potent stimulator of mitochondrial energy production and overall metabolism. The other effect has to do with fatty acid oxidation. Fatty acid oxidation is simply the scientific term for fat burning. The scientists discovered that not eating stimulates fat burning. And the results?
Because of these two effects, they were able to show that when they gave the C. elegans less food, the little guys lived longer. Much longer. In their words, “Finally, we show that increasing lifespan via maintaining mitochondrial network homeostasis requires fatty acid oxidation and peroxisomal function. Together, these data demonstrate that mechanisms that promote mitochondrial homeostasis and plasticity can be targeted to promote healthy aging.”
Slows Down Aging in Two Ways
William Mair, senior author on the study explained the importance of their findings, “Although previous work has shown how intermittent fasting can slow aging, we are only beginning to understand the underlying biology.” He goes on to explain that their research shows that intermittent fasting slows down aging in two ways.
One, by manipulating mitochondrial networks to keep them in a “youthful” state. And two, by increasing fat metabolism. “Low-energy conditions such as dietary restriction and intermittent fasting have previously been shown to promote healthy aging.” explains Heather Weir, lead author of the study. “Our findings open up new avenues in the search for therapeutic strategies that will reduce our likelihood of developing age-related diseases as we get older.”
Are There Options Other than Fasting?
Fasting is tough for some people. Going without food can be very hard. So another option that has very similar results is calorie restriction.
When we think of calorie restriction, we typically associate it with weight loss. If you’re happy with your weight, you may never have considered counting (or cutting) calories. In fact, you may have heard that prolonged calories restriction can actually slow your metabolism down. That’s true – but it could actually be a good thing. Here’s why you may want to consider cutting your calories, even if you aren’t seeking to lose weight.
Researchers designed the CALERIE (Comprehensive Assessment of the Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy) trial to assess the effects of calorie restriction on metabolism and ultimately on aging in non-obese participants. They were able to convince 53 healthy people between the ages of 21 and 50 to take part in the study, which required them to cut their caloric intake by 15% and maintain this reduction for two years. The researchers tracked a number of markers throughout the trial, in part to ensure that the participants were indeed sticking to their calorie allotment.
They Lost More than just Weight
According to the results of the study, the participants did lose weight – an average of nearly 9 kg apiece. But that wasn’t all they lost. They also experienced systemic decreases in oxidative stress, which contributes significantly to issues like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes.
The participants not only enjoyed these benefits, but many also reported boosts in mood and overall quality of life, even if they considered themselves healthy to begin with. None of the participants experienced adverse side effects like anemia, excessive bone loss, or menstrual disorders. Overall, following this calorie-restricted diet seems to have been quite beneficial.
These two strategies, fasting and calorie restriction, are fantastic ways to live longer and avoid disease. In fact, one other study found that fasting can even help fight multiple sclerosis.
These Mice were able to Fight MS
We’ve known for some time that dietary changes are an important part of treating MS. Now research from Washington University School of Medicine is exploring the role of gut microbiomes in this disease. And the researchers have found a new way to improve gut health – and reduce the symptoms associated with MS.
In the study, researchers found that intermittent fasting can reduce MS symptoms in mice. The researchers split mice into two groups. One group ate as much as they wanted. The other group received food every other day. After four weeks, the researchers triggered MS symptoms in the mice.
Those that had fasted had fewer signs of neurological damage. They had less trouble walking and less weakness and paralysis. Those that did have MS symptoms took longer to develop them than the mice that ate freely. Their immune systems also didn’t seem to be as overactive, so they had less inflammation.
The researchers believe that fasting may have affected the mice’s gut microbiomes. This, in turn, can make the immune system less prone to inflammation. The fasting mice had more diverse microbiomes, and they had more friendly bacteria. Other studies have linked these bacteria to improvements in MS symptoms.
The mice who didn’t fast also saw improvements when the researchers transferred some of the gut bacteria from the fasting mice to them. This provides further evidence that the gut bacteria were significant players.
What about us Humans?
The researchers are now ready to start testing the fasting theory in humans. They’re asking people with relapsing-remitting MS to take part in a 12-week study in which they either eat a Western diet seven days a week or five days a week. Those who follow the Western diet for only five days will eat 500 calories of vegetables on the other two days.
A pilot study found that this pattern of eating could create positive changes in the immune system and microbiome, so the researchers are expanding it to see if humans can get results similar to those of the mice.
Intermittent fasting is definitely worth trying for MS patients. If that doesn’t help, or it’s too hard to do, try restricting your calories. The studies don’t make any promises, but it’s definitely worth trying. Make sure you’re following my dietary guidelines for MS patients while doing so. The type of foods you eat is important.
Dietary changes alone aren’t likely to reverse MS symptoms entirely. But they’re a good tool to have. If you’re already following my MS protocol but want to see if your results can be even better, give fasting or calorie restriction a try.
Cutting back on calories is a wise way to fight the aging process. It’s the only proven method to extend your life. So it should work for fighting all sorts of diseases, not just MS.
However, you shouldn’t assume that just because a little restriction is good, a lot is better. That mindset can quickly lead to disordered eating, which won’t benefit your health, physical or mental. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist if you need help identifying your proper caloric intake.
Any doctor trained in my Bio-Energy Testing® can help you determine the best number of calories for your body. It also can help you maximize both mitochondrial function and fat burning. I have written all about this in my book, Bursting With Energy, where I recommend intermittent fasting as a regular part of a healthy lifestyle.
The Best Ways to Fast
So what’s the best way to fast? There are two ways to do it.
The first option is my favorite. Here’s what you do: Once or twice a week, either skip breakfast and lunch or skip lunch and dinner. You can have all of the water with lemon juice, coffee, or tea that you want. Just don’t have anything with any caloric value during the times when you’re not eating. That’s it. It’s simple.
The second way also works quite well. All you have to do is go 12 hours without eating every day. So if you finish dinner by 7:00 p.m., don’t eat again until 7:00 a.m. This gives your body a break. And it has the added benefit of helping you cut out late-night snacking. I don’t know anyone who’s grabbing a salad to eat in front of the TV at 9:00 p.m.
This particular form of fasting isn't proven to work for weight loss. But it can help reduce calories (assuming you don’t pig out during the 12 hours you are eating), lengthen your life, and avoid disease as well.