A Brief History of Intermittent Fasting

A physician explains why time-restricted eating is nature’s anti-aging diet

Paul Spector MD
Elemental
Published in
6 min readJan 13, 2020

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A fork and knife on a round plate in the position of clock hands, with salad in between as a symbol for intermittent fasting.
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

NoNo topic in the health sciences is more fundamental or more poorly understood than nutrition. How and what we eat now causes more disease and death than any other health risk factor. About half of all American adults have one or more preventable, diet-related chronic diseases.

Our norm of three meals a day with snacks between is antithetical to our biology. Recent research suggests a new paradigm with remarkable effects on aging, disease, and weight control.

It’s about time.

Caloric restriction (CR), a dramatic reduction in caloric intake without malnutrition, has been shown to not only reduce weight but prolong healthy life span in a variety of species from worms to nonhuman primates. Risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, the leading causes of death and disability, are markedly diminished by CR regimens. However, few people can tolerate deprivation, and calorie restriction is also associated with undesirable side effects such as fatigue, loss of libido, impaired cold tolerance, and muscle wasting.

These obstacles drove a quest for a more user-friendly variation of CR. Valter Longo, at the University of Southern California (USC)…

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Paul Spector MD
Elemental

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