For some time now in scientific health circles a distinction has been made between the term lifespan meaning life expectancy or longevity and a term derived from it: Healthspan meaning healthy life expectancy or quality of life without specifying how many years, or even youthspan alluding to the time interval in which an organism remains young, healthy, and fully functional.
Science has established that the primary anti-ageing and longevity mechanism is calorie restriction. However, scientists, coaches, trainers, social media influencers and fitness gurus alike are looking for ways to maintain youth and its benefits without dietary deprivation.
Updated scientific publications are making it known, as we have noted before, that the way the body stays youthful is by not allowing it to adapt to a routine. This applies to both nutrition and physical activity or exercise.
Your health and quality of life start with how much, when and what goes into your mouth. With this in mind, certain concepts such as fasting, intermittent fasting, plant-based eating and protein or amino acids should be part of your anti-ageing protocol, but with strategy, let's look at why.
The practice of fasting activates important anti-ageing mechanisms such as autophagy where cells digest waste material within themselves to renew cells and improve cell function. Consequently, fasting can reduce chronic inflammation and improve blood sugar control in particular.
The liver is the main repository of glucose, which is stored as glycogen. In humans, depending on their level of physical activity, fasting for 12-24 hours usually results in a drop in serum glucose and depletion of liver glycogen, accompanied by a shift to a metabolic mode in which glucose, fat-derived ketone bodies and free fatty acids are used as energy sources.
According to a macromo.org article for Insider magazine,
"Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) research led by Joseph Takahashi and colleagues has shown that calorie restriction (CR) extends life by 10%. The big finding, however, was that the key to longevity is not just in cutting calories, but also in eating at the right time. Mice that ate only at the times when they were most active (night for mice) lived 35% longer. The research results support dietary plans based on eating only at certain times of the day, Takahashi says."
According to a US National Library of Medicine publication, a 15% CR in humans reduces markers or risk factors for a number of age-related diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, but also causes side effects, including low or very low body mass index (BMI) when applied chronically. In addition, it may increase susceptibility to certain pathogens, such as influenza viruses and intestinal parasites.
The same publication indicates that protein restriction (PR) independent of caloric intake also extends lifespan in mice and improves health in young and middle-aged mice and humans, but moderate to severe PR can lead to frailty and/or disease in old mice or in individuals over 65 years of age.
In animal products, proteins are coated with inflammatory molecules such as haem iron, heterocyclic amines, endotoxins, AGEs or advanced glycation products, TMAO or trimethyl amine N-oxide and NEU5GC or N-glycolyl neuraminic acid. It also alters the microbiome and bacterial species that promote increased inflammation.
However, severe calorie restriction (CR), where calories from protein are less than 5% of total calories, may also have detrimental effects, including weight loss in younger organisms, as demonstrated in mice.
To better understand how the mechanisms of calorie restriction and protein restriction work, we need to know that the signalling pathways by which CR and PR prolong life expectancy include those activated by growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and insulin, and involve downstream factors such as phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), mammalian target of rapamycin target complex 1 (mTORC1), protein kinase A (PKA), AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma-activated receptor 1 alpha (PGC-1α), sirtuins and forkhead transcription factors (FOXO), all of which have been shown to regulate or affect ageing and longevity.
In fact, chronic protein restriction, without calorie restriction, has been shown to prolong longevity and life expectancy. In particular, intermittent fasting and periodic fasting, similar to chronic calorie restriction, delay the incidence of disease, but also reduce the proportion of animals that develop some form of disease in their lifetime, and in particular cancer. (study)(study)
Thus, both CR and PR can have important effects on nutrient signalling pathways and ageing. With these tools, everyone can identify which dietary regimen, specific to the time of life they are experiencing, may be effective in delaying, and even partially reversing, ageing and age-related diseases.
Would the Solution be, Therefore, to Eliminate Protein from Your Diet?
Certainly not. According to the study mentioned, animal versus plant-based proteins may influence ageing and disease. In fact, a high protein intake in adult life (up to age 65) is associated with an increased risk of overall mortality and cancer-related death; however, this association is attenuated or eliminated when the higher protein intake comes from plant sources.
Plant-based vs. animal protein diets
A plant-based diet builds new tissue in tendons and muscles; and stimulates the immune system to fight infection. At almost every level, eating the right foods will speed up your recovery process, whether from training, injury, illness or simply years of feeding your body inappropriate foods because the same biomarkers that affect an athlete's performance affect the health of the average person.
On the other hand, several amino acids, and other nutrients naturally present in animal protein are of key importance to global health, not least because they should be considered crucial for the human brain: iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, as well as long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, meat contains several other B vitamins, such as thiamine and niacin, which may be limited in micronutrient-poor diets based on unfortified cereal-based foods or to which other foods are not added to make up complete proteins.
Animal protein vs. plant protein: "which one is going to allow your body to overcome inflammation and recover better, whether from training, injury, illness or poor eating habits throughout life, or simply to lose excess weight?"
Perhaps you know best if you need to lose weight, detoxify, overcome an illness, or strengthen your muscles today.
Below you will find the different alternatives that will help you decide which approach to follow.
Raw Vegan Nutrition
Raw food nutrition consists of mostly or entirely raw and unprocessed foods.
The diet allows for various alternative preparation methods, such as juicing, blending, dehydrating, soaking, and sprouting. Like the vegan approach, the raw food diet is usually plant-based, consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
This type of diet is useful if you want to enter a period to detoxify your body, or as an adjuvant treatment if you are recovering from an autoimmune disease, for example.
The Different Types of Fasting
Calorie restriction (CR). A dietary regime with a reduction of 20-40% of normal daily calorie intake without malnutrition.
Dietary restriction (DR). A dietary regime involving the restriction of one or more macronutrients. Caloric intake may be normal or restricted.
Fasting mimicking Diet (FMD). A diet designed to achieve fasting-like effects on serum levels of IGF-1, IGFBP-1, glucose, and ketone bodies, while providing macro- and micronutrients to minimise the burden and adverse effects of water-only fasting.
Intermittent fasting (IF). A dietary pattern in which short periods of fasting (16-48 hours) and periods of ingestion (8-12 hours) alternate.
Protein restriction (PR). Dietary regime with a reduction in total protein intake or a reduction in specific amino acids.
Periodic fasting (PF). A period of extreme dietary restriction characterised by complete food restriction (water only) or a severely calorie-restricted diet (SRD) for a prolonged duration (more than two days), followed by a period of ad-libitum refeeding that is not prolonged. AP may be repeated, but infrequently.
Time restricted feeding (TRF). A daily feeding pattern in which all nutrient intake occurs in a limited number of hours (usually ≤12 hours).
Prolonged, non-chronic, intermittent fasting can benefit heart health, reduce oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, lose excess weight, reduce insulin resistance, prevent cancer, and improve cognitive health.
Increased Protein Intake
Protein intake is crucial for repairing and maintaining healthy muscles, bones, skin and hair.
Many proteins are actually enzymes that trigger thousands of chemical reactions in the body. Certain proteins act as intermediaries in communication between cells and organs, or transport molecules to where they are needed.
Animal products are considered "complete proteins" because they contain all the essential amino acids in the optimal amounts needed by the body. These include eggs, dairy, meat, fish, and poultry.
Plant proteins do not provide adequate amounts of all essential amino acids but can be combined with other plant sources to provide complete proteins.
Scientific research indicates that a high protein intake has an effect on your appetite, metabolic rate, weight and body composition. In addition, it helps you increase muscle mass, strengthens your bones, improves healing, and can help prevent muscle deterioration due to ageing.
These are the tools you can count on to achieve your nutritional goals. As you can see, you don't have to enrol in any of these schools, but rather, use them cyclically or according to your current needs. The same applies to physical activity, which we will soon discuss.