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Study reveals the harmful side effect of fasting

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When do you go on fasting, both religiously and as a personal choice? If that’s the case, you may be wondering how a fasting diet or intermittent fasting affects your health.

Fasting diets have risen in popularity in recent years, however little is known about the long-term impact of these diets.

According to Dr Edward Ivimey-cook of UEA’s School of Biological Sciences:

“We know that reduced food intake increases the lifespan in many animals and can potentially improve health in humans. However, little is known about the long-term effects of reduced food intake, including time-limited fasting, on distant descendants.”

And to find out more about the long-term impact of fasting, especially on future generations, the researcher with his team carried out a study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The team researched the lifespan and reproductive changes due to time-limited fasting across three generations in roundworms.

They looked at a total of 2,500 worms across four generations. The initial generation of worms were put in one of four settings, including having unlimited food and going on a fasting diet.

Four generations of offspring from these parents were then placed onto either full-feeding or fasting diets.

The researchers then evaluated the impact of several scenarios on future generations’ reproduction and lifespan. These covered what occurs when great grandparents fast but subsequent generations may eat as much as they want, as well as cumulative fasting for four generations.

“We found that fasting did indeed increase their lifespan and it also improved offspring performance in terms of reproduction, when offspring themselves were fasting, said Dr Ivimey-Cook.

“However, we were surprised to find that fasting reduced offspring performance when the offspring had access to unlimited food.

“And this detrimental effect was evident in grand-offspring and great-grand-offspring.

“This shows that fasting can be costly for descendants and this effect may last for generations.

“There has been a lot of interest in the potential benefits of fasting in promoting healthy ageing in humans.

“A lot of the molecular pathways involved in the fasting response are evolutionarily conserved, which means the same pathways exist across a multitude of species including humans.

“So our study strongly prompts us to consider multigenerational effects of fasting in different organisms, including humans.

“This is really important because it means we need to carefully consider the long-term effects of fasting when trying to pursue healthy lifestyles — because the detrimental impact may only manifest itself in distant generations.”

Image Credit: Getty

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