50/50 shot at a longer, healthier life

intermittent fasting

I have a friend who recently lost close to 40 pounds by intermittent fasting.

You’ve probably heard of it… it’s all the rage right now.

There are lots of versions of intermittent fasting, but the most popular are the 16/8 method and the 5:2 method.

In the 16/8 method, people fast every day for 16 hours and only eat during an 8-hour window. A lot of people simply cut off their eating at dinner and skip breakfast… most of the fasting hours are spent sleeping.

In the 5:2 method (the one my friend had success with), you eat normally 5 days of the week and restrict your calorie intake to under 600 calories 2 days a week.

What interested me even more than the weight loss aspect of intermittent fasting, and any other diet that reduces the number of calories you eat each day, are the claims that eating less is the key to a longer, healthier life. But a new study says that may not be the case…

While eating a calorie-restrictive diet has been shown to significantly extend lifespan and delay age-related diseases in many species, a team of scientists from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging felt that testing had not been extensive enough to truly paint a picture of what we as humans can expect.

So they set out to perform a genome-wide analysis of 160 genetically distinct strains of the fruit fly.

Why fruit flies?

Well, although it might sound strange, fruit flies make great research tools when looking at human diseases.

First, fruit flies share 75 percent of the genes that cause disease in humans. Second, since their lifecycle is so short, scientists can “speed up” research that would otherwise take decades in humans. And finally, since it’s an easy task to breed a huge number of the flies at a time, researchers are able to include a massive range of data in their results, making it more trustworthy.

Here’s where things got interesting…

Although the scientists say that while they found that on average lifespan was extended and healthspan was increased when the fruit flies were kept on a calorically restricted diet, the devil is in the details.

While 97 percent of strains tested showed some lifespan or healthspan extension in response to dietary restriction, only 50 percent of strains showed a significantly positive response to dietary restriction for both — basically a 50/50 shot that by using caloric restriction you’ll be able to live both longer and healthier.

Thirteen percent of the strains were more active, yet died sooner with dietary restriction. Another percent lived longer but spent more time in poor health. And the remaining 32 percent of the strains showed no benefits or negative effects on lifespan or healthspan at all.

When asked about the study, the researchers say that it gives us a glimpse of what’s likely to happen in humans using dietary restriction. Since we’re all different, some of us may benefit from a longer, healthier life while others might live healthier but not longer (or vice versa).

And still, others will see no benefits at all.

So, unfortunately, it looks like eating less isn’t the universal answer everyone’s been hoping for.

Mimicking caloric-restriction

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be in the 50 percent of cases when caloric restriction could lead to the improvement of both health and lifespan.

This just makes deciding whether to pursue the option a bit more complicated.

As to my own choice, I’m still eating the same consciously healthy diet as always since the one thing we do know is that maintaining a healthy weight prevents a huge number of diseases.

In addition to diet, I take a resveratrol supplement daily.

Why?…

Although caloric restriction may be effective in promoting longevity in 50% of adults who try it, more like 99% of all adults find this restrictive lifestyle too impractical to even attempt…

Do you know that term hangry? When your hunger is making you increasingly upset, irritable and angry, you’re hangry. It’s not good for anyone.

Because of the impracticality of fasting for so many people, scientists have sought to uncover the precise mechanisms by which caloric restriction promotes longevity, in order to help people capture its life-extending benefits through more practical (less hanger-inducing) means.

Research suggests that it may be possible to achieve the life-extending benefits of caloric restriction using the readily available, plant-derived compound known as resveratrol.

Resveratrol and caloric restriction appear to work via similar mechanisms to promote health and longevity in numerous animal species.

Harvard University scientists showed that resveratrol could prolong survival by regulating a gene associated with aging that is present in all life forms!

The same benefits as calorie restriction without the hanger? Resveratrol’s a win-win in my book.