What is intermittent fasting? Easy diet that helps with weight loss AND living longer

It’s a no-brainer that weight affects longevity.

Studies have shown that life expectancy for obese men and women was 4.2 and 3.5 years shorter respectively than people in a healthy BMI weight range.

Severe obesity, which is not uncommon in the UK, was shown to shorten a person’s life by 10 years, with this loss being equal to the effects of lifelong smoking.

Obesity increases a wide range of serious diseases, including heart issues, diabetes and even some cancers.

By adopting a certain way of eating, however, experts have raved about the effects it could have not just on weight loss, but on longevity too.

As well as weight loss, the practice has been linked to longevity and a reduced risk of age-related diseases.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting, or simply fasting, has had the health world in a tailspin.

Also known as the 16:8 diet, it means eating within a strict eight-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. Some people reduce their eating window further to six or even four hours, which means skipping one or two meals a day to cut excess calories.

Studies have found that by not eating for certain hours in the day, the body has time to digest meals properly, which reduces calorie intake without causing malnutrition.

This way of eating has been hailed as the “longevity diet” and could be key in helping to reduce a number of age-related diseases.

The intermittent diet was the most popular diet of 2018, according to a survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFICF).

Favoured by celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman, could the intermittent diet be the key to a longer and healthier life?

Benefits of intermittent fasting
A study published in the journal Nature found how intermittent fasting works inside cells to slow the ageing process and points to potential ways to get the health benefits of fasting without the hunger pangs.

Fruit flies were used to investigate further, as they have similar biological clocks to humans and share roughly 70% of human disease-related genes.

They found that a cell-cleaning process kicks in after fasting, but only when fasting occurs during the night.

Cell-cleaning is a process is known to slow ageing by cleaning up and recycling damaged components of the cell, thereby reducing age-related diseases.

Studies in mice have also shown that intermittent fasting also increases longevity.

Researchers find that alternate-day fasting improves markers of oxidative stress, a measure of longevity.

In the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, 90 obese adult Americans were analysed with one group on a fasting regime and the others not.

Both groups were put on the same diet with an exercise regime including physical activity between 75 to 150 minutes per week.

The study found that obese adults who ate within an eight-hour window lost 14lbs (6.3kg) in 14 weeks, on average, compared to 9lbs (4kg) in a control group who ate when they wanted.

Those on the fasting regime were also found to have healthier blood pressure and reported being happier than before starting the test.

Publishing their findings, the authors wrote: “The effects of early-in-the-day time-restricted-eating were equivalent to reducing calorie intake by an additional 214 calories per day.”

Nearly half (41%) of the fasting group planned to continue practising the same eating routine after the study had concluded.

The authors said the study was limited in that it looked mostly at women and relied on self-reporting to tell if people followed the diet and exercise plans.

Professor Peter Hajek, a health behaviours expert from Queen Mary University of London, said the study added to a body of work showing fasting can help achieve short-term benefits.

“This small trial provides additional evidence that time-restricted eating can contribute to weight loss over short term (14 weeks) if combined with caloric restriction,” he added.