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article imageReview: Eat, Fast and Live Longer Special

By Alexander Baron     Aug 7, 2012 in Lifestyle
Most of us would like to live longer and stay healthy as we grow older. Michael Mosley believes he may have found a way to do so.
The comma is important in the title, it is not "eat fast and live longer" but eat, then don't eat, and live longer.
Michael Mosley is a TV presenter and producer who has a background in medicine, albeit psychiatry. The subject of this programme seems too to be something of a personal quest for him, one which sadly is doomed to end in failure - death and taxes being the only certainties in any of our lives. Can we put off death? We can certainly avoid dying prematurely, well, most of us can. The big questions are, for how long can we delay the inevitable, and will it be worth it?
He begins with the London Marathon in which the remarkable Fauja Singh completed the course in 7 hours 49 minutes. If that time sounds a long way short of the world record, it is truly amazing considering he was 101 years old at the time!
From London, Mosley is off to the United States to study people who practice Calorie restriction, which is what Fauja Singh attributes to his long life, although he has never practiced it as such, certainly not the way dedicated CRONIES do; these are people - almost invariably men - who practice Calorie restriction in order to live longer. This is not a new idea; it goes back to the 1930s and experiments with rats which lived longer on Calorie restricted diets provided they were fed sufficient micronutrients.
This was pioneered in humans by Roy Walford, who practised it himself. He died seven years ago aged 79.
Although it has been hailed as a breakthrough, not everybody is so impressed; Aubrey de Grey believes Calorie restriction is a dead end. Mosley though is chasing another rainbow, Calorie restriction, consuming less protein, and regular fasting. He undergoes a three and a half day fast as part of the exercise, and is told by one gerontologist that it has been worth it.
Then he meets another gerontologist who is working on a project that involves alternate day fasting, something Roy Walford practised, though not necessarily this precise type.
It appears also that alternate day fasting is good for the grey matter.
Mosley's conclusion is that although more research is needed, fasting or intermittent fasting is something that more people should practice. This is all very well and good, but it is not exactly news. The simple fact is that most of us eat too much - and not only in the West.
According to the Bible, gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. The Bible also tells us there is pleasure in sin, though at the end of that road lies destruction. It is doubtful if the ancient Hebrews understood diabetes, hypertension or any of the other afflictions brought on by overindulgence in food, glorious food, but they and most of our other ancestors understood human nature better than we do, and the inevitable consequences of giving in to it, be it sexual depravity, drunkenness, or eating as much as we can instead of as much as we need.
This one hour documentary in the BBC's Horizon series can currently be found on iplayer, for those who can receive it.
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