Fasting the key to anti-ageing?
Can regular fasting delay the ageing process? We ask the experts
The theory: Regular fasting helps to slow down the body’s metabolism, which slows down the ageing process while also helping to detox the body.
“I think we evolved to have some fasting days, just because we weren’t able to hunt down that animal that day,” says naturopath Mim Beim. “It does have the effect of slowing your metabolic rate and gives us a break from the free radicals that we create when we digest. A lot of my patients do really well if they include a day of not eating.”
Dr Andrew Weil, renowned integrative medicine advocate and author of Spontaneous Healing, is also a big fan of fasting.
“I have experimented with fasting one day a week, usually on Mondays,” he says. “When I fast, I consume nothing but water or herb tea, sometimes with lemon in it, and I find this to be a useful physical and psychological discipline. It feels healthy.
“There are many secondary benefits as well, such as greatly increased appreciation of food following a fast and greater ability to eat consciously rather than unconsciously.”
“On the flipside, with a slow metabolism, you’re also prone to putting on weight, which doesn’t help with longevity,” says anti-ageing expert Dr Michael Elstein. “And when you slow your metabolism down, everything slows down – your brain slows down and your body slows down, which is not always conducive to an active life. It’s also very hard to stick to.”
Such a dip in your calorie intake can cause side effects in some people, and if you’re skinny and sensitive to the cold, it’s probably not for you.
“Your body can become stressed, blood sugar levels can become unbalanced and you produce higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” says naturopath Sarah Stevens. “When this happens, you increase inflammation in your body, which can cause more wear and tear. So there is a fine line between fasting and putting your body under stress and limiting your overall calorie intake.”