Last night, being the tired old gits we are, @nonmonotonix and I settled in for a night of Horizon on the BBC iPlayer whatsit, and watched Dr Michael Mosley’s latest exploration of the human body “Eat, Fast and Live Longer” (so easy to have an ‘eats, shoots and leaves’ misunderstanding there…). It was an interesting programme, and you could find worse ways to spend 60 minutes of your time. Admittedly, it took us longer to watch, because I have to have conversations with people in the screen who can’t hear me (please don’t abuse the word CURE, mister researcher in Somewhere, California).
The show explored various nutritional lifestyles which make claims of: improved health, lower risk of cardiac disease, weight loss, extended lifespan and (what I found most interesting) limited neurodegeneration as we age.
The three ‘diets’ included: CRON (calorie restriction optimal nutrition), ADF (alternate day fasting) and the one that we’re going to try (and I believe Dr Mosley is still doing) 2 days fasting (with limited caloric intake c 400 for me and c 500 for nonmonotonix), 5 days eating.
I personally was least impressed with the CRON lifestyle, not just because I have zero interest in apple peels, but a little digging on the topic revealed that it largely advocates little to no exercice, which goes against substantial research showing good evidence for exercise being rather, um, important. Allow me to share one of my favourite quotes from Sir Liam Donaldson, former Chief Medical Officer, in his 2009 report on the importance of physical activity:
“The potential benefits of physical activity to health are huge. If a medication existed which had a similar effect, it would be regarded as a ‘wonder drug’ or ‘miracle cure’”.
I love that, and I’m a baby pharmacologist!
I also am not keen on extending life expectancy for its own sake. I very much agree with Dr Mosley that the goal should be more about holding on to good health as long as possible and as realistically as possible, because, ageing happens (and DO NOT get me started on the socio-economic implications of an ever ageing society with regards to neurodegenerative disease, I’ve been fasting since I woke up, so I may rip someone’s head off).
ADF didn’t appeal as much, though I honestly have no rational explanation as to why other than my ability to forget what day it is…
What really interested me above everything else was the impact on IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor 1) levels and what that means with regard to disease. Being a person with breast cancer already (and new tumours popping up every few years like a demented game of Whack-a-Mole), I’m curious if I can reverse the effects of my long term illness and/or prevent further cancers and what IGF-1 has to do with that. I also want to fit into my skinny jeans again. Yup, I went there…
So, off we go. We’ve already started TODAY, having only partaken in coffee so far and are planning our ‘meal’ as an early dinner. I’ll be blogging and tweeting along the way (with some fancy charts and statistics too*).
Don’t worry, it won’t all be a boring log of food. As neurodegenerative disease is on of the things that gets me out of bed in the morning (that didn’t quite sound right) I’m going to be examining the evidence and research around fasting and its health benefits, what IGF-1 is/does and breaking down the neuro-whatsits for those of you not schooled that stuff!
Please feel free to comment, ask questions, or even JOIN US (for moral support/comparing notes etc.) it’s FOR SCIENCE :-)
*if anyone out there with access to a swanky blood lab wants to give me a full blood work up so I can be accurate about my IGF-1 levels, I will love you forever