Different cultures around the world have their own unique foods and dietary habits. A common practice in terms of food in the modern-day times is fasting. For some, it may be due to cultural practices and religious devotions and reasons. Others may do it to control their daily intake and improve their diet.
Intermittent fasting – the formal term for the practice now – is more prevalent than ever before. Typically, it was done to show religious devotion in the past times. Today, many diets include fasting for a certain period of time in order to boost metabolism and lose excess weight.
While there is little research present on whether intermittent fasting can actually help in weight loss, a number of studies have pointed at its other potential benefits. For example, a number of studies have shown that fasting in rats can help increase the lifespans.
More recently, a study conducted by researchers at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University in Japan gives a whole new perspective to intermittent fasting. First study author Dr. Takayuki Teruya comments on the findings:
“Recent aging studies have shown that caloric restriction and fasting have a prolonging effect on lifespan in model animals, but the detailed mechanism has remained a mystery.”
The main thing this study examined that the previous ones did not was the effects of intermittent fasting on metabolic activity and how it may contribute to anti-aging effects.
The main objective was to see the changes in metabolic processes which may help find a way to get similar effects without the need of going without food for long periods of time. The results are published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Read the study here.
How Was the Research Conducted?
In order to study metabolic processes in intermittent fasting, the team looked at 4 participants for fifty-eight hours. During the fasting period, the researchers also looked at the blood samples in the intervals and used metabolomics, or the measurement of metabolites.
Prior to this research, the scientists were already aware of the metabolic changes that take place when the body is under starvation mode such as gluconeogenesis which is a process in which the body gets glucose from noncarbohydrate sources.
To check whether glucongenesis has happened or not, levels of metabolites such as carnitines and butyrate in the blood can be checked. The team also noted this during the research.
In addition, they also saw a number of unexpected changes such as the rise in the products of the citric acid cycle. This cycle is a part of the mitochondrial functions and happens when there is a need to release stored energy. This means fasting may push the mitcochonrdia into overdrive.
Another shocking finding was an increase in the levels of purine and pyrimidine. Both of these had never been noted in earlier research. A higher levels of these means an increase in gene expression and protein synthesis. This means that fasting may also affect the cells to change the quality and type of proteins required.
What Does This Mean?
A new change noted in levels of purine and pyrimidine may be a sign that the body also increases its production of antioxidants such as ergothioneine and carnosine.
Furthermore, this study also showed that intermittent fasting boosted the production of metabolites such as leucine, isoleucine, and ophthalmic acid. Previous research had, in contrast, concluded that these metabolites decline. This is important in explaining how fasting increases the lifespan in rats.
In total, the scientists identified 44 metabolites that increased during fasting, some of which increased 60-fold. Dr, Teruya concludes by saying:
“These are very important metabolites for maintenance of muscle and antioxidant activity. This result suggests the possibility of a rejuvenating effect by fasting, which was not known until now.”