Over the past couple of years, intermittent fasting has gained substantial attention for its potential role in weight loss. However, recent research suggests there may be many more benefits to the strategy than just whittling your tummy — it might even extend your life.
In a review published in The New England Journal of Medicine, neuroscientist Mark Mattson, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Medicine looked at many intermittent fasting plans and concluded that two, in particular, are particularly effective: either a technique called 5:2 fasting that involves eating normally for five days and then eating only one moderate-sized meal two days per week or restricting your eating time to a 6–8 hour window every day.
“We are at a transition point where alongside standard advice about healthy diets and exercise we could soon consider adding information about intermittent fasting to medical school curricula” Mattson notes.
Why would something as simple as not eating for a big chunk of time help you live longer? The answer lies in the breadth of benefits that have been found in both animal and human studies.
For example, intermittent fasting is advantageous for cardiovascular health as it has shown improvements in blood pressure and resting heart rate. Several studies have also suggested it may be effective for weight loss, which can help prevent obesity and diabetes — which have both been connected to shorter lifespans.
A 2018 study done on mice showed that when animals ate only one meal per day, and therefore had a longer fasting period, they not only had longer lifespans, but also showed considerably less risk for age-related liver disease and metabolic disorders.
In his review, Mattson says studies indicate fasting lowers inflammation and increases resistance to stress and improves blood sugar regulation. All of those can have significant effects when it comes to longevity.