Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer
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Many believe longevity and genetics go hand in hand. But genes are only part of the equation for most. In fact, ageing expert Dr Thomas Perls states that research shows that genes account for less than one-third of a person’s chances of surviving to the age of 85. A new study conducted on fruit flies delves into one theory of when you eat rather than what and how this impacts longevity.
The study, which was published in the journal Nature, revealed how intermittent fasting works inside cells to slow the ageing process and points to potential ways to get the health benefits of fasting without the hunger pangs.
Intermittent fasting involves time-restricted feeding which in turn limits food, but not overall calorie intake, to specific hours of the day.
“Because intermittent fasting restricts the timing of eating, it’s been hypothesised that natural biological clocks play a role,” said Dr Mimi Shirasu-Hiza, associate professor of genetics & development at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and an expert in circadian rhythms, who led the study.
Dr Shirasu-Hiza and Dr Matt Ulgherait, an associate research scientist in her lab, turned to fruit flies to investigate further.
Fruit flies have similar biological clocks to humans, staying active during daylight and sleeping at night, while also sharing roughly 70 percent of human disease-related genes.
Fruit flies are an excellent model for ageing, Dr Shirasu-Hiza added because fruit flies and humans age in similar ways, but since fruit flies only live for two months, ageing experiments are more technically feasible.
For the researchers, the role of time was a big clue to how fasting is linked to longevity.
They found that a cell-cleaning process kicks in after fasting, but only when fasting occurs during the night.
Scientists call the cell-cleaning process autophagy, and the process is known to slow ageing by cleaning up and recycling damaged components of the cell.
Human cells use the same cell-cleaning processes, so the findings raise the possibility that behavioural changes or drugs that stimulate the cleaning process could provide people with similar health benefits, delaying age-related diseases and extending the lifespan.
Intermittent fasting is thought to improve insulin resistance, which can stabilise blood sugar levels.
Findings from a study found that three men all with type 2 diabetes were able to stop taking insulin after losing weight from intermittent fasting.
The diet could also help improve memory as another study showed the switch of eating can increase resistance to stress by optimising brain function and neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to adapt to develop throughout one’s life.
Adults who were put on the restricted-calorie diet showed improved verbal memory compared to others who did not follow the restricted-calorie diet.
For an added health benefit, intermittent fasting with high-protein meals and exercise can help to shed unwanted weight further boosting longevity.
Being overweight is linked to many health problems, and shedding some pounds is often presented as the best way to avoid them, no matter your age.
Obese or even merely overweight people who can shed just three percent of their weight and keep it off for the long-term will see significant health benefits from lowering their risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, as well as some cancers.
Men who are obese are estimated to be around five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and 2.5 times more likely to develop high blood pressure.
Women who are obese are estimated to be around 13 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and four times more likely to develop high blood pressure than women who are not.
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