BBC

The fast way to long life


Could this really change my life?

Every now and then I happen across something that has the potential to change my life. Such a thing occurred last weekend. I’ve been hearing about the BBC Horizon programme ‘Eat, Fast and Live Longer’ for a few weeks, but couldn’t find it on the BBC website. I searched YouTube and found it. I’ve watched it three times now and done some further reading. It really does seem to have found some silver bullet to a healthier future. I’ve given up pretty much everything that might harm me up to now: alcohol, meat, caffeine, tobacco and drugs of any sort. It really only leaves chocolate and women and I like both of those – as vices they seem to be good for me. To most people that makes me odd, a bit weird, boring. I may be all of those things, but I live a healthy lifestyle that has helped my asthma and all round health.

Where does your fat go?

I’m now less than six months off 50 and I have noticed in my 40’s that it is harder to keep off stomach fat. When I put on weight it goes on my face or my belly, nowhere else. In the past few years I’ve had pretty good results from weight-training and although in reasonable shape things could always be better. Envy of the younger, better built guys at the gym is never too far away. However, I know that my lifestyle has worked for my internal organs and for keeping my brain sharp. When it was first spoken about at the gym claims of weight loss were the first thing I heard. One guy lost over a stone (14lbs/6 kg) in a month, another 9lbs/4kg in 3 weeks. It sounded impressive, but how do you fast and why would you want to? I get hungry by 2pm in the afternoon at the latest. I was advised to watch the programme for the other benefits of fasting – the health benefits. It amazed me.

How it works.

Although complex the premise is that reduced calorie intake increases life expectancy. This was first realised during the years of the Great Depression in the USA. People who lived on restricted calories increased their longevity by 6 years, when it was expected that the hardships would reduce life expectancy. Research began to be done back in the 1930’s as to why this would happen, but has gathered apace in the last few years. It seems that a diet low in protein, high in vegetables and fruit turns off insulin-like growth factor 1(IGF-1) the chemical compound which sets cell production; whilst a certain level of this is necessary for life it seems that too much causes the body to go into ‘go-go’ mode making more cells without repairing damaged cells. These are the cells which can become cancerous. Research suggests that when IGF-1 production is reduced the body uses the compound to repair damaged cells. The most interesting thing about this research for me is that it fully supports the theories put forward in the China Study and in the studies of the running tribe of Mexico, the Tarahumara. In other words, this information is not coming from only one source.

How do you do it?

It was enough for me to want to try it, but how do I go about fasting? There were three ways demonstrated in the programme. The first was to fully fast for 3 days and 4 nights, drinking only black tea or water. This would be done every other month. The second way was alternate day fasting; this is eat normally one day and have a restricted diet of 600 calories for men and 500 for women on the fasting days. Finally there was the 5 on 2 off method. This can be done as eat normally for 5 days and with the restricted calories already explained on 2 days, either consecutively, or the way I am doing it any 2 out of 7 days. The 600 calories can also be taken in one largeish meal (as I’ve done this week) or as I’m going to try next week 400 for breakfast and 200 around 5pm. I’ve found that by that time I really am very hungry and I find it distracting. Perhaps that will pass.

I’m not the only one.

As my first week comes to a close I’ve lost 4lbs and my jeans that I wore last month and were tight on me are now loose; the fat loss can only have come from my belly. This makes me happy. I’m told that the first week is the toughest, at the end of my 4 weeks I’ll feedback again (no pun intended). I’m also taking photos each week and I’m intrigued to see the difference. The biggest surprise has been how many other people are trying it or will be taking it up next week. It’s been one of the most popular debates on my Facebook page. Not having the resources of the BBC I have not had my blood tested or a brain scan to see if new neurons are being created as Michael Mosley’s programme suggested, but I will have a cholesterol test soon (it was low when I last had a test anyway) and I’m sure the mirror and scales will also be my guide.

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