A recent study suggests that reducing caloric intake just five days a month improves immunity and reduces several risk factors for cancer, diabetes and cognitive decline.
In all cultures of the world, fasting has always been seen as a means of purifying body and mind. For the ancient Greeks like Socrates, Plato and Pythagoras, fasting was considered essential to better perceive the truth, while for the followers of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim religions or even in Buddhism, fasting is used to get closer to God or to obey his commands.
Fasting still retains a certain esoteric dimension today, being perceived as a way of “detoxifying” the body, a sort of purge that rids it of “toxins » which have accumulated.
This vision of fasting is completely inaccurate: our body does not accumulate toxins and is on the contrary quite capable of eliminating by itself harmful substances through the liver and our kidneys, without having to starve ourselves to get there.
That said, several studies carried out over the last few years indicate that fasting causes everything similarly spectacular effects on several aspects of metabolism.
For example, the simple fact of e restrict calorie intake over an eight-hour period followed by hours without eating anything (intermittent fasting) is associated with a beneficial impact on blood glucose and insulin levels as well as a decrease in inflammation.
These positive effects on metabolism are even more pronounced for occasional longer fasts (2-3 days), these also being associated with immune system regeneration as well as protection against the toxic effects of chemotherapy in patients with cancer.
Fasting is therefore not a method of detoxification, but rather a “rebooting” of the metabolism which allows it to improve its performance and better resist aggression.
Fasting: spectacular results
Despite these positive effects, it is difficult to see occasional fasting as a realistic approach to improving the health of the population tion. For the majority of people, it is psychologically very difficult, if not impossible, to completely deprive themselves of food for 2-3 days. Not to mention that the pure and simple elimination of all calorie intake can lead to serious complications in some people, particularly in the elderly and frail.
It is in this context that a team of American researchers (University of South California) had the idea of developing a diet that reproduces the positive effects of fasting on the body, without however requiring the total abandonment of food.
Essentially based on foods of plant origin, this diet cuts calorie intake by about half (800-1000 kcal per day), while providing adequate amounts of essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids , fatty acids).
The results obtained following the administration of this diet are quite spectacular: for example, adult mice subjected twice a month to cycles of four days of this low-calorie diet see their health greatly improved, with a decrease in abdominal fat, a reduction in the incidence of cancer, better bone density and an increased life expectancy.
In elderly mice, this diet also leads to an increase in the synthesis of new neurons in the hippocampus a significant improvement in their cognitive performance.
Fasting five days a month helps prevent chronic diseases
The results of a pilot study carried out on volunteers suggest that these benefits are also observed in humans. The participants (average age of 40 years) were subjected to the diet mimicking fasting five days a month for a period of three months, after which markers of their general state of health were measured and compared with those of another group who had not been subjected to this calorie restriction.
The study clearly shows that the simple act of limiting calorie intake for a few days each month is enough to cause a significant decrease in blood sugar, inflammation and certain growth factors involved in the tumor progression (IGF-1).
Since this calorie restriction was very well tolerated by the participants (only 5% dropout), future clinical trials should allow to study more in detail its impacts on health and to confirm its potential for preventing chronic diseases and on life expectancy.
In the meantime, one thing is certain: the most of the chronic diseases that currently affect the population are a consequence of overconsumption of food and there are only advantages to reducing the size of our portions.
Longo VD and MP Mattson. “Fasting: molecular mechanisms and clinical applications.” Cell Metab.; 19: 192-181. Brandhorst S et al. “A periodic diet that mimics fasting promotes multi-system regeneration, enhanced cognitive performance, and healthspan”. Cell Metab; 40: 86-40.
Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.
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