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The authors review intermittent fasting animal and human studies and the effect on aging, general health, and disease processes.
While animal studies show that intermittent fasting improves animal health during their lifespan, it is unknown if humans can maintain intermittent fasting over the long term and derive the same benefits. Further studies are needed to understand the link between intermittent fasting and health benefits. By doing so, targeted pharmacologic therapies may be developed to mimic the fasting effect in humans.
This abstract is available on the publisher's site.
According to Weindruch and Sohal in a 1997 article in the Journal, reducing food availability over a lifetime (caloric restriction) has remarkable effects on aging and the life span in animals.1 The authors proposed that the health benefits of caloric restriction result from a passive reduction in the production of damaging oxygen free radicals. At the time, it was not generally recognized that because rodents on caloric restriction typically consume their entire daily food allotment within a few hours after its provision, they have a daily fasting period of up to 20 hours, during which ketogenesis occurs. Since then, hundreds of studies in animals and scores of clinical studies of controlled intermittent fasting regimens have been conducted in which metabolic switching from liver-derived glucose to adipose cell–derived ketones occurs daily or several days each week. Although the magnitude of the effect of intermittent fasting on life-span extension is variable (influenced by sex, diet, and genetic factors), studies in mice and nonhuman primates show consistent effects of caloric restriction on the health span (see the studies listed in Section S3 in the Supplementary Appendix, available with the full text of this article at NEJM.org).