Re: A 27-year-old who weighed 456 pounds survived without any food for 382 days
Fasting could prevent aging and transform your body, but it goes against everything we think of as healthy
Picture a group of early humans journeying through what we would now call northern Europe, looking for safe new lands. Perhaps they were driven from more comfortable territory that they unsuccessfully tried to take from a group of Neanderthals, or perhaps they fled another group of warfaring Homo sapiens. Maybe there were reasons to think the hunting would get better if they stayed on the move.
Our traveling band may have been relatively comfortable during the spring and summer months through which they'd traveled, but now winter is coming to these new northern lands. It's cold. Food has become scarcer. Throughout the next months, they'll be able to find and kill just enough to make "full meals" every so often. They'll often have to survive weeks between those times.
This story represents what was normal for humans all over the world for thousands of years. Yet humanity managed to survive, thrive, and spread.
That ability to fast is an ancient survival adaptation, according to Leonard Guarente, the Novartis Professor of Biology at the Glenn Laboratory for the Science
of Aging at MIT. As he told Business Insider, when we came across those times of cold when food was scarce, the natural processes in our bodies would slow.
Women became less fertile, as a time of famine is no time for a child. Aging itself would slow, giving us a chance to live past the hard times. Then when fortunes reversed, when our traveling band lived through the long winter and spring arrived, with life blooming and food plentiful, we'd grow again, we'd eat and reproduce — but also age.
That concept of fasting as an ancient mechanism that delayed aging is what makes serious researchers who are trying to figure out how to slow the diseases that come with growing old so interested in the biological changes that occur in our body when we stop eating.
This also explains why fasting may have some of the benefits for our bodies that the converted preach. After all, being hungry isn't lifeless or drained; it's actually when our bodies and brains need to function at maximum capacity. In a sense, some of the truth of this is built into our language. We use words such as hungry to describe someone who is driven and eagerly pursuing a goal.
"Think of a predator that has to find, track down, and chase prey in a setting where the prey are limited in numbers," says Mark Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. "Those predators often have to go several days, many days, even longer without eating.