Intermittent Fasting May Increase Your Lifespan, According To Harvard

Chris van Buren

Intermittent fasting is a diet or lifestyle which involves a period of fasting and non-fasting. Good news is this type of diet allows you not only to lose weight but also to have a longer and healthier life.

According to the research conducted by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, manipulation of mitochondrial networks inside cells may promote health and increase lifespan. There are two ways in which mitochondrial networks can be manipulated — by genetic manipulation or by dietary restriction.

Intermitted fasting is a time-restricted diet that involves reducing the allowable time of daily calories intake to anywhere between four and 12 hours a day.

With the use of nematode worms, the researchers were able to study aging in real time in the lab. Nematode worms (C. elegans) live for just two weeks. In restricting the worms' diet, the researchers found that the mitochondrial networks are maintained in a youthful state. The worms' diet was restricted through genetic manipulation of an energy-sensing protein called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Lifespan is increased by these youthful networks through communication with peroxisomes to regulate fat metabolism.

According to the lead author of the study, Heather Weir, "Low-energy conditions such as dietary restriction and intermittent fasting have previously been shown to promote healthy aging. Understanding why this is the case is a crucial step toward being able to harness the benefits therapeutically. Our findings open up new avenues in the search for therapeutic strategies that will reduce our likelihood of developing age-related diseases as we get older." Weir is currently a research associate at Astex Pharmaceuticals and was part of the team that conducted the research at Harvard Chan School.

William Mair, associate professor of genetics and complex diseases at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study, stated that despite previous work showing how intermittent fasting can slow aging, they are only starting to understand the underlying concept and biology about it.

The researchers plan to focus next in testing the effect of the mitochondrial networks in the fasting of mammals. Association between obesity and increased risk for age-related diseases is also being tested in relation to defects in mitochondrial flexibility.