Fasting slows the ageing process. Sounds unlikely? Here’s the science

A drug that slowed ageing and protected the body from diseases such as cancer would no doubt cause considerable excitement around the world. While there is no such miracle drug, there is a way to trigger these effects in the body without taking any medicine at all — simply by fasting. You probably think this sounds too good to be true. So what’s the evidence?

There are few carefully conducted large-scale clinical trials. This is not surprising given the difficulties of requiring participants to give up eating over several days. The best empirical evidence, therefore, comes from studies on laboratory organisms such as mice, flies or even yeast. These clearly demonstrate that periodic fasting protects living creatures from most diseases and improves overall health.

In particular, fasting provides astounding protection against most cancers. Furthermore, it differentially protects healthy cells but sensitises cancer cells to chemotherapy drugs. A small, randomised pilot study illustrates similar protection in humans.

So how does fasting work? When we are deprived of energy sources the body acts to conserve energy by diminishing cellular proliferation. This occurs through a reduction in various growth factors — specifically insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), target of rapamycin (TOR) and protein kinase A (PKA). These changes result in cellular protection through reduction of oxidative damage and inflammation. Essentially, fasting is a challenge to the body, which engages stress response pathways to ensure survival.

Much of the research here comes from the laboratory of Dr Valter Longo, with whom I collaborate at the University of Southern California’s School of Gerontology. His lab focuses on the fundamental mechanisms of ageing that are preserved from simple organisms to humans. It has demonstrated that the IGF-1, TOR and PKA growth factors, or pathways, are critical for promoting ageing in model laboratory organisms and humans. Therefore, their elevation accelerates ageing processes. In fact, low levels of IGF-1 are associated with the longest-living human populations. (These pathways, just to recap, are reduced by fasting.)

They are also associated with disease. High levels of IGF-1 are associated with cancer. Reduced IGF-1 levels are associated with lower incidence of cancer, improved stress resistance, reduced insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity.

Another surprising effect of fasting is higher energy levels. When hungry, the body is programmed to seek nourishment with increased activity. When we are satiated, in contrast, the body is sedentary.

Unfortunately, fasting is not easy. And it isn’t safe for extended periods of time. This is where the Fasting Mimicking and Enhancing Diet (FMED) comes in: a meal programme that allows you to eat but tricks the body into acting like it is fasting.

The first commercially available programme, which I helped to develop, is called ProLon. It consists of soups, bars, snacks and drinks that contain all the nutrients you need for five days. All the ingredients are plant-based and provide between 1,150 and 800 calories a day.

Preclinical studies show that ProLon inhibits the activity of the major pro-ageing genes including those in the IGF-1, TOR and PKA pathways and, in turn, causes two major changes: 1) the entry of many cells and tissues into a shielded mode which involves the activation of protective as well as repair enzymes; 2) the destruction of damaged intra-cellular organelles and cells followed by the activation of stem cells and the regeneration and rejuvenation of a wide range of cells and tissues.

A randomised clinical trial showed the diet had long-lasting effects in reducing body weight and abdominal fat and maintaining lean body mass. Three cycles of ProLon promoted healthy levels of blood glucose, insulin and C-reactive protein (CRP, a marker of inflammation). Furthermore, stem cells and regenerative markers were elevated. The diet seems to re-programme the body into a regenerating, rejuvenated and resilient mode.

In oncology clinics across Europe and the United States, another such meal programme, Chemolieve, is being tested in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Preliminary results suggest that patients who consume Chemolieve prior to and on the day of receiving chemotherapy treatment experience significantly less chemotherapy-induced side effects.

Given the expansive, system-wide effects of these fasting diets, I believe they will have profound implications for numerous diseases, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Crohn’s and Alzheimer’s, and change our whole approach to healthy living.

Dr Todd Morgan is research professor at the School of Gerontology, University of Southern California, and Chief Scientific Officer at L-Nutra

  • woolfiesmiff

    Oh you’re selling a diet…. I see …….. bin

  • aztec

    Total and utter bull. The website screams scam- wonder how much ephedra-“like” substances it’s packed with

    • A Wills

      Regardless of the meal programme being promoted there is a swath of serious scientific evidence supporting the idea of regular fasting as a means to lower risk of many health problems alongside slowing the rate of ageing.

  • bachcole

    Paying for an unnatural substance to help with fasting is completely and utterly unnecessary and stupid; we know that every unnatural substance so far invented hurts the body and/or does not build health. These idiotic scientists are promoting this only because they know that it will garner them cash, not because they know or care about health building or about you.

    I have not eaten for the past 94 hours, closing in on four complete days. It is not really all that difficult. First, switch your body over to fat-burning (from sugar burning) by way of a ketogenic diet. This is fairly easy and health building in it’s own right. When you are comfortable getting most of your calories as fat as opposed to carbs, start doing intermittent fasting. This is also a piece of cake (pun intended). Just start by skipping breakfast. Since you are now a fat burner rather than a sugar burner, this will also be easy. After doing this for a few weeks, graduate to just not eating at all for an entire day. Day 1 dinner, day 2 nothing, day 3 breakfast.

    You need to study and think through both of the topics above in bold. No body will make any money off of this; you will save money and gain health. In particular, this will KILL type 2 diabetes. A really good source is Jason Fung, M.D.

    Ending a fast can be tricky: Study

  • kimhillier

    I have fasted for 1 month and consumed 700-800 Kj for another month and lost 15 Kg, I felt great and lost Hunger after 3 days. I now fast for 4-5 days about every 3 months and look forward to it.

  • Jeff

    Gated Communities

    Gated communities are taking on an important role in modern politics. Donald Trump grew up in a gated community, and made his fortune building gated communities that illegally exclude African-Americans. Trump’s approach is not based on ideology, but on consumer demand, and in particular, the demand of the working class to live in a place where there are no minority groups, criminals, wierdos or politically correct (Catholic educated) people.

    A gated community has a number of characteristics. There is ideally a six metre high concrete wall to keep out intruders. When the wall surrounds a very large number of houses, the average cost of the wall becomes insignificant. Getting past the security guards is like going through customs. Hence there is no crime in a gated community, and children can roam unsupervised in complete safety. Parents can be sure their daughters will not encounter males that would be unsuitable sons-in-law.

    Allotments are typically quarter-acre or five acres (one-tenth or two hectares). Houses are fireproof and of a similar appearance. Services are provided by underground ducts, including pneumatic mail delivery. Television and internet are unobtrusively censored.

    There is a shopping centre with a supermarket and other key shops. Prices are controlled to prevent gouging. There is a club for men and older boys from which women are excluded. On the top of the shopping centre is a hospital and old people’s home overlooking a race track and playing fields.

    There is a non-denomination church, which has leather sofas instead of pews, and wallpaper with pictures of saints like in an eastern orthodox church. The priest is a family man employed by the management committee. There is a co-educational school, so that if children conceive a passionate desire for a classmate, it will be someone of the opposite gender. The school has international baccalaureate and no homework.

    Once people move into a gated community, it occurs to them that, instead of their having to move into a gated community, it would be better if the “undesirables” were forced to live in ghettos, or were kicked out of the country altogether. No doubt this is what Donald Trump has in mind. The Conservative Party should take on board this trend in modern living and become the party for people who live or would like to live in gated communities. em