This post is related to a previous one I wrote about calorie restriction.
Here are some links about calorie restriction and brain function:
- Does Eating Fewer Calories Improve the Brain?
- A trial in humans suggests that calorie restriction can boost memory.
Cutting calories has been shown to increase the life span of some animals and protect them from signs of aging and disease. Although some humans have been eager to adopt a low-calorie diet to see similar results, so far, there is relatively little evidence that calorie restriction has the same benefit in people. A new study from researchers at the University of Münster, in Germany, adds new evidence in favor of cutting calories: older adults who reduced calories for three months fared better in memory tests. The results, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer the first evidence that calorie restriction could prevent age-related mental decline in humans.
I went ahead and started experimenting with various forms of calorie restriction recently.
I’ve previously written about some of my food and nutrition experiments. In previous experiments, I lost weight and gained most of it back due to inability to keep it up.
Last May, I switched to a high-nutrient, vegan diet* and started experimenting with things like water fasting and calorie restriction. I didn’t do it for weight reasons, but lost 50 pounds in the process. I’m now 155 pounds, which is near my target weight for my height.
(* It was vegan until a couple of weeks ago, when I started adding small amounts of fish.)
I’ve been experimenting with water fasting, where I consume nothing but water for 2-5 days per month. I’ve tried it based on this research:
- Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system
- Fasting for three days can regenerate entire immune system, study finds
Here’s an interview:
I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful for some health conditions. That kind of fasting is very difficult though.
There is another diet, related to that research, called the Fast Mimicking Diet, that attempts to obtain similar results without the difficulties of water fasting. I haven’t tried it, but here are some links:
- Why we've all been doing the Fast Diet wrong
- Fast Mimicking Diet
- Five day 'fasting' diet slows down ageing and may add years to life
- Here’s how a five-day diet that mimics fasting may ‘reboot’ the body and reduce cancer risk
The reason that I haven’t tried the FMD is that it’s too complex for me to follow with much accuracy:
It breaks down like this: on Day One, the overall diet adds up to 1,090 calories – which must be consumed as 10 per cent protein, 56 per cent fat and 34 per cent carbohydrate. Days 2-5 contain 725 calories each, split into portions of nine per cent protein, 44 per cent fat and 47 per cent carbohydrate.
What I’m trying to find out is: could a simpler 5-day calorie restriction (say 500-700 calories) do the same thing as the FMD? Longo said:
"we worked really hard to find the exact amounts, so that you don’t feel like you are fasting, but your body gets the same effects. The time (five day stretches) is important because the body needs to do this for three or four days before reprogramming itself, and the process of regeneration and rejuvenation begins.’’
And comparisons with the 5:2 diet:
'The 5:2; it is not bad, but you need to do it every week. With the Fasting Mimicking Diet, you do it every three or four months, so that’s less than half the time.’’
…He also thinks there are two specific problems with 5:2: ''We have seen that the high protein intake associated with 5:2 and the short duration of the fast (ie 24 hours) seems to block the regenerative effect you get from fasting.’’ Plus, the brain gets confused when you ask it to change behaviour often; fasting and then not fasting, especially if you swap the days around a lot may affect our Circadian rhythms, says Prof Longo.
I’ve also tried 5:2 calorie restriction where I eat only 500 calories on two non-consecutive days per week. That works okay, but not as well as the water fasting.
Does anyone here do similar self-experiments? If so, do you have any resources or tips to share?
(If you’re thinking of trying it, it would be a good idea to consult with a doctor first. I am not recommending that people do it – just starting a discussion about it.)