Fasting and intermittent fasting have been tossed around in various “health advice” circles for some time now. I’ve read and followed some of it but wasn’t terribly convinced until I ran across a clip in a documentary that mentioned Valter Longo, a professor and researcher currently working at the University of Southern California who has produced some pretty amazing results in laboratory studies. His research is making its way into human testing and even direct marketing under the name ProLon. Feel free to look into it and see what you think: Dr. Valter Longo on fasting and “fasting-mimicking diets”. Also check out his foundation’s page: The Valter Longo Foundation. I was interested so I followed up with his new book: The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight. Wow, that title is a mouthful!
I love a good challenge and the results looked promising, so after reading the book and listening to a few talks he has made (Here you can find his TedX Talk) I was ready to give it a try. I have managed short fasts a few times in the past, usually using them as a sort of “reset” when I realized my diet wasn’t properly lining up with my values and plans. I am also prone to limited fasts, juice or fruit and juice only fasts during times of sickness which are thankfully quite rare. They seem to speed recovery but with an n=1 study of just myself I am giving that as my personal opinion only. There is certainly something to be said for placebo effect there and I cannot discount it. In any case it was his rather convincing evidence of the acceleration of autophagy, which is our body’s way of dealing with old, worn out or disfunctional cells. This helps both in general rejuvenation as well as cancer destruction; now really, who isn’t interested upon reading that? With a load of different inflammatory disorders in my family history, my interest was also piqued at the idea of additional decrease in inflammation (which is part of the reason us Plantpowered Gamers follow a rather strict whole-foods plant-based Vegan diet).
So how have I faired so far?
Well, I am writing this on day 3 of the fast. I actually managed two full days of water only (as well as herbal teas and a bit of lemon juice). On day 3 I brought back in a very restricted “Fasting Mimicking” dietary plan which so far has included Tofu, lots of leafy greens, olives, peanuts, tahini and a bit of broccoli. I will note that I was starting to get pretty fatigued near the end of day 2 which is largely why I shifted a day earlier than planned to the “FMD” plan. I originally wanted to do 3 full days of water only fasting followed by two fasting-mimicking days, mostly just to see how I handled it. It seems from the research he presents that 5 days of FMD gives essentially the same benefits of a full fast, so next time around I will probably just do 5 days of FMD instead and save myself the discomfort. I will note, however, that day one of the fast didn’t bother me at all so I may well stick with one day of water only. It is actually kind of cool to see how the body can react and adjust so readily to such a drastic change. I do wonder if my previous experience at fasting helped in this though, and I really have no way of knowing. It seems that one gets “better” or at least more capable of dealing with most things diet and exercise related, so I do wonder if fasting is something that one gets “better” at with practice. It will be interesting to see. In any case, I will probably make another update on day 5, so wish me luck!