Fasting has long been used in many religious practices, such as Ramadan, wherein fasting takes place between sunrise and sunset. However, studies show that fasting can benefit the body as well as the soul, with physical benefits including a longer lifespan.
(Clearwater, Fla.) November 04, 2015—Per new research conducted by Robert Drapkin, MD, board-certified physician in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Palliative Care, intermittent fasting is actually a healthy dietary option for most people and can prolong lifespan. Dr. Drapkin notes that when properly done, intermittent fasting can also lead to reduced chances of disease and health complications.
“Through following a strict eating and workout timeline, people can reap benefits which include a longer lifespan, weight loss, and muscle buildup,” says Dr. Drapkin. “Intermittent fasting can be a vital part of healthy aging.”
During intermittent fasting, no calories are ingested for periods normally lasting up to 14 hours. Some fasts can last as long as 36 hours, or it can also include delaying eating, as in skipping breakfast or lunch. There are several forms of intermittent fasting; for example, some forms may include restricting calorie consumption for a period of 16 hours followed by eight hours of eating, while other forms require a 24-hour rotation of low-calorie intake and normal-calorie intake. (1) Dr. Drapkin advises paying attention to your body and its needs when engaging in intermittent fasting.
“It’s important to make sure you choose which form of intermittent fasting is right for you,” says Dr. Drapkin.
Fasting can lead to weight loss; however, the diet has health benefits beyond shedding pounds, it will also increase your longevity and is the only known method that produces longevity in every species. Additionally, fasting can actually increase energy by burning stored fat, as well as leading to better sleep. It has also been linked to the reduction of inflammation and triglyceride levels, free radical damage, lessening weight gain, and lowering the risk of metabolic disease. (2) Dr. Drapkin points out that while the body may experience an initial period of fatigue, it is possible for the body to function normally during intermittent fasting.
“Eating less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day will deplete glucose reserves after two to three days,” says Dr. Drapkin. “This leads to a decrease in body fat due to increased lipid oxidation and decreased body fat production. In other words, a very low-carbohydrate body will help the body lose fat, but will not help the body build muscle.”
Prolonged fasting can lead to a state called ketosis. Ketosis occurs when stored fats, rather than glucose, are broken down for energy. (3) Ketosis was first studied by Dr. Stefansson and Dr. DuBois at Bellevue Hospital as a possible medical treatment, (4) and it has been suggested that a ketogenic diet may help with epilepsy, obesity and diabetes.
“Essentially, the body switches from burning carbohydrates to burning fat,” says Dr. Drapkin. “This is when the weight loss aspect of fasting comes into play.”
Dr. Drapkin notes that intermittent fasting can be a part of healthy aging. Studies have shown that in many species—including primates—caloric-restriction increases longevity. (5)
“One theory is that when one takes in fewer calories yet does not experience malnutrition by maintaining a sufficient intake of essential minerals, amino acids and vitamins, there is less ‘oxidative stress’ on the mitochondria in your cells,” says Dr. Drapkin. “Mitochondria can be likened to the batteries that run the cell. They are the small structures inside every living human cell that produce energy for the cell.”
Less oxidative stress on the mitochondria means that there will be less damage to the DNA in the mitochondria, and thus, healthier cells in your body. Dr. Drapkin likens this view of longevity to the “tennis ball theory of life.” The more the tennis ball (you) is hit over the net (stress), the less fuzz is left on it (decreased level of health). In other words, the less stress you put on your body, the longer it will last.
Bodybuilders and CrossFit members alike have been known to practice intermittent fasting in order to improve results. As a champion bodybuilder himself, Dr. Drapkin recommends intermittent fasting for those who are looking to add to athletic performance. Dr. Drapkin began his own bodybuilding career well after the age of 40. Now, at age 71, Dr. Drapkin is an active world-class bodybuilder. Dr. Drapkin began bodybuilding to help improve his quality of life as he grew older, and in order to debunk myths regarding elderly fitness through example.
In addition to Dr. Drapkin’s traditional medical training and practice, he has decades of experience, research and study in the fields of diet and exercise that have proven very beneficial in helping patients treat and prevent an array of medical conditions, as well as helping many to lead happier, healthier and more active lives.
About Robert Drapkin, MD, FACP:
Robert Drapkin, MD, is a healthcare provider who is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Palliative Care. He is in active practice, working to save lives and improve quality of life through the education of his patients. He provides up-to-date knowledge and guides his patients through their illnesses, exercise and diet. He has been in active practice for over 36 years. Dr. Drapkin is currently 71 years old, and started training as a bodybuilder when he was in his fifties. He has been a competitive bodybuilder for 17 years, and has won many titles and contests. He is currently in training for a national event in July, 2016.
- Hyde, Parker. “Fasting”; Bodybuilding.com; February 26, 2015. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/intermittent-fasting-science-and-supplementation.html.
- “Intermittent Fasting Infographic”; Mercola.com. http://www.mercola.com/infographics/intermittent-fasting.htm.
- “Ketosis: What is Ketosis?”; Medical News Today; October 1, 2015. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/180858.php.
- Freeman JM, et al. (2007). Pediatrics. 119(3):535-543.
- Sinclair DA (2005). Mechanisms of Aging and Development. 126(9):987-1002.
Karla Jo Helms