Feast or Fast?
In 1916 Rasputin’s enemies put enough cyanide in his wine to kill five men. He drank it with no ill effects. In 1934 Mary Crowell and Clive McCay of Cornell University occasionally forgot to feed their lab mice. Those mice lived twice as long as the well fed ones. Today I usually eat once a day.
What do all of these things have in common? I’ll try to explain. I just have to figure out where to begin. I think I’ll start with my eating only once a day.
Long before I started on the paleo diet and caveman lifestyle, I usually only ate when I was hungry. Most of the time that was once or sometimes twice a day. As a matter of fact, what appealed to me about this lifestyle was that it made sense to me on a gut level (no pun intended). Sleep when you are tired, eat when you are hungry and exercise when something is chasing you. It just seemed natural.
A few days ago a friend of mine said that he was going to do some intermittent fasting. He wasn’t going to eat his first meal until noon. Noon? Intermittent fasting? What’s up with this?
I decided to check out this idea of “intermittent fasting” It led me back to 1916 and to Grigori Rasputin AKA the Russian “Mad Monk”. Rasputin’s enemies tried to poison him by putting cyanide in his wine, that didn’t work. So then they shot him 4 times, stabbed him, beat him, tied him up and threw him under the ice in the river. That worked.
The important question here is, why didn’t the poison kill him? It turns out that Rasputin suspected that someday someone would try to poison him, so he ate a little cyanide every day in advance. Eventually his system had built up an immunity to cyanide. (Unfortunately, he hadn’t figured out a way to be immune from being shot, stabbed, beaten and drowned.)
This brings us to 1934 and the folks that forgot to feed the mice and discovered that the “calorie restricted” mice lived longer than the well fed mice. (I don’t know that they forgot to feed the mice, but that’s what I would tell my boss too.) Anyway, the concept of “calorie restriction” took off and before long scientists were calorie restricting everything from fruit flies to monkeys. Some of them were actually even calorie restricting fungi. The results were interesting. As long as you kept them this side of total starvation everything seemed to be healthier and live longer (although probably somewhat crankier).
Then someone came up with the idea of intermittent fasting. Maybe we could reap the same benefits of near starvation without being miserable all the time? Turns out we probably can. After all, that’s how the cavemen lived. Personally, I think it all comes down to hormesis.
“Hormesis” comes from the Greek word “hormain” which means to excite. Hormesis is the response an organism has to a low level of stress. You’ve heard the expression “If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger”? That’s hormesis. Whether it’s taking a little cyanide every day, lifting weights or intermittent fasting, the process of hormesis makes you stronger. We all need a certain level of stress to survive.
How does it actually work? Who knows? And does it really matter? Our bodies are designed for survival. Our muscles need to be stressed to grow. Our immune system needs to be exposed to germs to stay strong. Our body needs to be exposed to famine to stay tuned. It’s just how we were made. Want to stay healthy and live a long life? I’ll give you 2.5 million years of advice:
Eat real food… and… stay hungry my friend
Anupam Ghose, a physician by training, was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) in 2017. After the diagnosis of T2DM, he followed a low carbohydrate high fat diet and reversed his T2DM within a year. Now he has one main goal in life and that is to make people understand that the conventional method of treating T2DM is not beneficial. Type 2 diabetes is reversible and the best way to reverse T2DM is through diet and lifestyle modifications. He now decided to help people with type 2 diabetes by offering online coaching to reverse their diabetes.