Immortality – the concept that one could live forever, has troubled the minds of many people. The King of Uruk named Gilgamesh, in fear of his death, travelled the wilderness in the quest of eternal life. The first Qin dynasty emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered his people to find the mythical tonic of immortality. Both the efforts were unsuccessful and regrettably, the latter died because of mercury poisoning which at his time thought to make him immortal. However, several myths in Greek, Hinduism and others have introduced characters who are thought to be immortal and disguised in this Yuga (you might be one among them). In the real world, can one be immortal? Eh, we don’t know. But systematically scientists around the world have proven that we can increase the lifespan – up to or even more than 100% (chillax, proven only in worms, fruit flies and Jerry). This was made possible by a variety of alterations. One among them is altering the amount, time and the way of food intake.

If we consider our body as a car, then the food we consume can be assumed as fuel. Then we would expect that more we eat, more distance we could travel – live long. Counterintuitively, that’s not the case. Recent discoveries made us believe that the lesser one eats healthier one can be. Eating less mean that you reduce your caloric intake or restrict your food intake to a particular time window without being malnutritional. Living in India, almost everyone would have met someone fasting for religious reasons. Fasting has been observed in different religions in the context of sacrifice, thankfulness or yearnings. And you can see people fasting in a myriad of way – fasting on the particular day(s) in the week, resisting themselves from eating non-vegetarian foods on particular days or month and I fast when I don’t feel like cooking. However, a large community of people fasting have not realized the beneficial effect of fasting. They could lead a healthier and/or longer life than the rest.

In India, it is estimated that there are about 2 centurions per a lakh people. However, it is projected to increase six-fold in near future. And researchers have found the hotspots – blue zones, where people crossing their 100’s is quite common than any other places in the World. These places are spread across the globe – from Central America to the Mediterranean to East Asia. It was quite amazing for me to realize that the eating habits in these blue zones are quite comparable to the calorie restriction (a kind of fasting). Culturally, because of food shortages, some of them have adapted a low-calorie diet. Their common habits include eating fishes, beans and native vegetables, having stress relieving activities, not eating to the fullest, and having a strong bonding with their family and friends. We don’t have enough evidence to claim that the diet of the blue zones will provide similar beneficial effects to people in non-blue zones. Nevertheless, we can try to follow the other habits.

Scientists have tried to find how this beneficial effect works. The body actually sees fasting as a stress and reinforces the cells with the maintenance proteins to counteract. The damaged molecules and tissues are thus repaired or cleared off. However, when your body has an impaired repair mechanism, especially during infection or in old age, fasting could actually be disadvantageous (these people are not obliged to fast for religious reasons). Not only that the fasting promotes clearance of damaged molecules, but it also uses the energy periodically from different sources and properly channels the energy for a better health condition. Thus, calorie restriction and other types of fasting diet increased the lifespan by preventing several age-related ailments – diabetes, cardiovascular disease. Cancer development was also restricted to a certain extent by reduced calorie intake. While it is quite apparent that the benefits of fasting are astounding, it is still a debate if we can propose calorie restriction or any other kind of fasting to a human for a better life. This is because most of the experiments and trials are performed in non-humans and we do not yet have reliable data from the short-term human trials (because of interindividual variability and practicality reasons).

There are many other factors that determine our health- and life-span. Genetic make-up, healthcare standard, the environment you live among others (not your horoscopes) play a role and roughly 30% of our longevity is determined by our diet. It is, therefore, no harm to reduce your calorie intake (without being malnutrition and of course with a proper consultation) or to fast once in a while, to have a stress-free life surrounded by your loved ones and to have a cup of Chai. Let’s grow old together – happier and healthier. KarthikaisamyEvolutionary BiologyGeneticsHealth and MedicineAgeing,Caloric restriction,FastingImmortality – the concept that one could live forever, has troubled the minds of many people. The King of Uruk named Gilgamesh, in fear of his death, travelled the wilderness in the quest of eternal life. The first Qin dynasty emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered his people to find...When Nature and Science meet, Magic happens !