Fasting boosts metabolism and fights aging

The latest study to explore the impact of fasting on the human body concludes that it increases metabolic activity more than previously realized and may even impart anti-aging benefits.

Woman drinking water in the street
A recent study takes a look at how fasting influences metabolism.

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help certain people lose weight.

Although researchers are still debating exactly how effective fasting can be for weight loss, new research hints at other benefits.

In rats, for instance, studies show that fasting can increase lifespan.

Although exciting, evidence of this in humans has yet to be seen.

The most recent study — which the authors have now published in the journal Scientific Reports — takes a fresh look at fasting in humans and provides new insight.

“Recent aging studies have shown that caloric restriction and fasting have a prolonging effect on lifespan in model animals,” says first study author Dr. Takayuki Teruya, “but the detailed mechanism has remained a mystery.”

In particular, scientists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University in Japan examined its impact on metabolism.

By understanding the metabolic processes involved, the team hopes to find ways of harnessing the benefits of fasting without the need to go without food for prolonged periods.

To investigate, they fasted four volunteers for 58 hours. Using metabolomics, or the measurement of metabolites, the researchers analyzed whole blood samples at intervals during the fasting period.

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What happens during fasting?

As the human body is starved of food, there are a number of distinct metabolic changes that occur.

Normally, when carbohydrates are readily available, the body will use them as fuel. But once they are gone, it looks elsewhere for energy. In a process called gluconeogenesis, the body derives glucose from noncarbohydrate sources, such as amino acids.

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