For many years it has been recognized that the first factor associated with longevity is reduced food intake. Studies have been done on this phenomenon repeatedly the world over. Let’s suppose there are two groups of rats. Group A is fed a quality rat diet on a daily basis while group B is put on a fast and fed only periodically. What we can expect is that the rats in group B, provided they are given high nutrient food stuffs at the time of feeding, will live significantly longer than the rats in group A. Interesting, no?
Back in the 70’s, when I was still in college, this phenomenon was known but not understood. Today we have much more understanding about how free radicals (unpaired oxygen molecules) relate to tissue damage and the disease-aging process. Free radicals are formed during many bodily functions including the digestive process. Like everything else in our world, when they are produced in a state of healthy equilibrium they are sufficiently neutralized to produce little trauma. However, when the free radical load exceeds a healthy balance it has the potential to damage cellular structures causing the release of local inflammation hormones which in turn process out to create further free radical formation. What can result is a back and forth free radical-inflammation-free radical mechanism called a spiral. Today just about every malady is attributed to an uncontrolled inflammation response somewhere in the body.
The bottom line is that if we can limit unnecessary free radical production in our bodies we should expect less cellular damage and stay younger and healthier longer. However, most people wouldn’t choose long periods of fasting. Fortunately, it’s not necessary to be too drastic to make a major impact. I’d like to point out what is probably obvious to many of you. If, in the process of digesting our food we are going to produce free radicals anyway, why not consider choosing mostly if not all foods that are known to be nutrient rich? I can’t tell you how many times people have pushed something like popcorn under my nose and asked, “Is this bad for me?” My response is, if ingesting food is going to put your body into a state of temporary stress the better question is “Is this GOOD for me?” By this I mean, does the food provide a nutrient load that’s worth its processing? Given a choice between popcorn and a dark green salad which would you select? A valuable exercise is to sort through your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator assessing whether each item is probably good for you. If you don’t believe it qualifies, consider tossing it.