The following article, which was published in England in The Telegraph, is the best written description of why we should be concerned about our IGF-1 level that I could find. I did not re-print the whole article, so if you want to read all of it please go to this link:
By Dr Michael Mosley 16 Aug 2012
Several months ago I set myself an ambitious goal: to find a way to live longer, stay younger and lose weight. I also wanted to go on enjoying the foods I normally eat and make as few changes to my lifestyle as possible. After talking to several scientific experts, I have spent the past few months trying a controversial diet that challenges conventional views about how and when we should eat. It is called intermittent fasting – reducing your food intake on alternate days.
One scientist who has been studying fasting for many years is Professor Valter Longo, the director of the University of Southern California’s Longevity Institute. When I visited him for BBC Two’s Horizon, he showed me a remarkable little mouse that had been genetically engineered to live longer.
“This,” he proudly told me, “is a dwarf or Laron mouse. These mice hold the record for longevity extension in a mammal.” The average mouse has a lifespan of about two years. Laron mice can live for up to five years.
The mouse I held was the equivalent of an 80-year-old human being. Like his genetically engineered relatives, he should live to the equivalent of 120, maybe even 180.
Laron mice are largely immune to heart disease and cancer, and when they die it is usually of natural causes. Oddly enough, when the mice are examined, scientists are often unable to find a cause of death. The heart just stops.
One of the links between fasting and longevity seems to be a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). As Prof Longo explained, IGF-1 and other growth factors keep our cells constantly active. It’s like driving along with your foot hard on the accelerator pedal.
You need adequate levels of IGF-1 and other growth factors when you are growing, but high levels later in life appear to lead to accelerated ageing. The evidence for this comes not just from animals such as the Laron mice, genetically engineered so that they don’t respond to IGF-1, but also from humans.
Prof Longo has studied certain villagers in Ecuador who have a genetic defect called Laron syndrome. It is incredibly rare: fewer than 350 people worldwide are known to have the condition. Like the mice, people with Laron syndrome don’t respond to IGF-1. They are short, typically less than 4ft tall, with prominent foreheads and underdeveloped jaws.
Most surprisingly, as Prof Longo explained, they appear immune to cancer: “There are no reports, not a single one, of them ever dying of cancer, yet their relatives in the same household, the same age, get cancer like everybody else.”
They are long-lived but, unlike the mice, not exceptionally so. Prof Longo thinks this may be because they have learned that they are naturally resistant to cancer and diabetes, and tend not to be terribly careful about their diets.
“They smoke, eat a high-calorie diet, then they look at me and say, 'Oh, it doesn’t matter, I’m immune.’ I think they would rather take the 85-year life and do what they want than the 100-year life and have to be restricted.”
Fasting lowers levels of IGF-1 and also appears to switch on a number of DNA repair genes. The reason seems to be that when we run out of food our bodies change from “growth” to “repair” mode. But Prof Longo warned me that fasting is not for the faint-hearted, and is safest done in a specialized center or under supervision.
“There’s going to be a drop in blood pressure, a drop in glucose levels and metabolic reprogramming,” he said. “Some people faint. It’s not common but it happens.”
I started my fast on a Monday evening, after a final slap-up dinner of steak, and finished it after more blood tests on the Friday. During that time I drank black tea, black coffee and lots of water but consumed no food.
Before I did it I was convinced that hunger would build day by day, getting steadily worse until finally I gave in and raided a local bakery. But what I found was that, after the first 24 hours, things got better. I had hunger pangs, but they passed.
On the Friday morning, I had myself tested again and discovered that I had lost just over 2 lb. of body fat, my blood glucose levels had fallen dramatically and my IGF-1 levels, which had been towards the top end of the range, had halved.
So I had improved my body chemistry and learned that I could tolerate hunger better than I imagined. Professor Longo warned me, however, that to maintain these benefits I would have to change what I ate.
According to Professor Longo, like many of us on a Western diet, I eat too much protein, and that helps to keep my IGF-1 levels high. Foods such as meat and fish are rich in protein, but so is milk. A skinny latte, which I drink most mornings, comes in at around 12g of protein. Recommended levels are a relatively measly 55g of protein a day.
Now this is clearly bad news for anyone on a high-protein diet such as the Atkins or the Dukan. But it is also tough for someone like me who enjoys their meat. Prof Longo is pretty much a vegan. I was prepared to give up lattes but not to go that far.
I met my next scientist, Dr. Krista Varady of the University of Illinois at Chicago, in an old-fashioned American diner. We ate burgers and fries while she told me about a diet that she has been testing on human volunteers. It’s called Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) and is very simple. One day you eat whatever you want. The next day, you fast.
Fasting ADF-style isn’t as drastic as the fasting I’d tried with Prof Longo. On Dr. Varady’s fasting days you are allowed about 600 calories a day if you are a man, 500 if you are a woman. The real surprise was that on my “feed days” I could eat exactly what I wanted.
Dr. Varady has finished a trial, to be published next month, in which she took two groups of volunteers doing ADF for 10 weeks. One group was put on a low-fat diet on their feed days, while the other was encouraged to eat lasagnes, pizza — a typical American high-fat diet. As Dr. Varady explained, the results were unexpected.
“When they signed up for the study, the people randomized into the high-fat group weren’t happy because they assumed that they wouldn’t lose as much weight as those randomized to the low-fat diet. But they did. People on the high-fat diet were losing as much and sometimes more weight, week after week.”
And it wasn’t just weight loss: the groups saw similar falls in LDL cholesterol — “bad cholesterol” — and blood pressure. Dr. Varady is running a year-long trial to assess the longer-term effects of ADF on weight loss and health. She is keen to see how much her volunteers lose and how many will still be on the diet after a year.
I thought long and hard about doing ADF, but decided in the end that it sounded a little too much like hard work and would play havoc with my social life.
Instead I opted for a less dramatic variant: the 5:2 diet. With this regimen you eat what you want five days a week, then twice a week you restrict yourself to just 600 calories.
There have been few human trials of the 5:2 diet, so no one is certain whether it is better to eat those 600 calories in one meal or to spread them out through the day. I decided to try different approaches, to see what would work for me.
I tried skipping breakfast and lunch, then eating my 600 calories in one go at supper time. The trouble is, I hate starting the day hungry. So then I tried a large breakfast and nothing else. I got really irritable in the evenings.
Finally, I went for a split: 300 calories for breakfast and 300 for supper. A typical breakfast now means two scrambled eggs and a slice of ham (quite a lot of protein, but well within limits), with plenty of water, green tea and black coffee to see me through a working day. Then, in the evening, I tuck into something like grilled fish and lots of vegetables. It is impressive how few calories there are in vegetables, and when you are hungry they are unexpectedly delicious.
There is no official guide to what a 600-calorie meal looks like — Dr Varady gives her volunteers specially prepared low-calorie meals — so I made mine up by trawling recipe websites.
It doesn’t seem to matter which days of the week you do it; I prefer to do my intermittent fasts on Tuesdays and Thursdays — something, apparently, that the Prophet Mohammed recommended.
I have kept this up for two months and, after a settling-in period, it has become quite easy. It is reassuring, when you are on a restricted-calorie day, to know that the next day you can eat whatever you want. The surprising thing is that you don’t. Dr. Varady said that her team expected people to gorge on their feed days, but most people are happy to eat their normal diet. Such is the power of habit.
Six weeks after starting the 5:2 diet, I had another full medical. The results were impressive. I had lost well over a stone, down to less than 12 stone. My blood glucose, which had been borderline diabetic, was normal and my cholesterol levels, previously high enough to necessitate medication, were also down in the healthy range.
I have swapped lattes for espressos and generally cut back on protein, so my IGF-1 stayed low. I look better and I feel good on it. I still sometimes eat burgers, biscuits and cakes, but on my fasting days I eat healthily.
Intermittent fasting is not something that you will find many doctors recommending because, while there is plenty of animal data, so far there is limited evidence of its efficacy in long-term human trials. It will not suit everyone, nor is it safe for everyone. It worked for me and I will keep doing it. Or I think I will. We shall see.
Note by a Blogger: What impressed me most about the program but was not mentioned in the article above was the fact that nurons were noticed to grow. A worthwhile experiment for anyone who might be concerned about Alzheimer's or Parkinson's — what have we got to lose?
Note by Bonnie: If you want to read the whole article please go to this link:
I was horrified to learn that some of the food I was eating on my Fast Diet is laced with Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide. A reader asked me to research Dr. Mercola's information on the subject and I am so thankful she did. I've switched to eating everything GMO-Free or at least as close to it as possible.
As far as I know Whole Foods is the only grocery store that is trying to provide GMO-Free food (and even they have some food that may contain traces of GMO containing food because it takes time to change food preparing facilities from one that provides GMO containing food to one that provides GMO-Free food and is therefore able to place the GMO-Free sign on their labels).
Below please read an excellent article (there were many on his website to choose from) and view a video featuring Dr. Mercola on the subject.
By Dr. Mercola
In recent weeks, we’ve learned some very disturbing truths about glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup, which is generously doused on genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready crops.
GE crops are typically far more contaminated with glyphosate than conventional crops, courtesy of the fact that they’re engineered to withstand extremely high levels of Roundup without perishing along with the weed.
A new peer-reviewed report authored by Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant, and a long time contributor to the Mercola.com Vital Votes Forum, and Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), reveals how glyphosate wrecks human health.
In the interview above, Dr. Seneff summarizes the two key problems caused by glyphosate in the diet:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Systemic toxicity
Their findings make the need for labelling all the more urgent, and the advice to buy certified organic all the more valid.
Mounting evidence now tells us just how false such statements are. I don’t believe that Monsanto is one of the most evil companies on the planet for nothing. The company has done absolutely nothing to improve their worldwide influence on human and environmental health.
In the video above, Jeffrey Smith, author of the bestseller Seeds of Deception, says Monsanto, during some reflective moment, must have asked “What would Darth Vader do?” Because what they’ve come up with is a way of pretending that they’re beneficial and then insinuating themselves into the food and agriculture industry, and now it turns out that what they have is very, very dangerous.
Indeed, according to Dr. Seneff, glyphosate is possibly "the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies,” including but not limited to:
Autism Gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, colitis and Crohn's disease Obesity Allergies Cardiovascular disease Depression Cancer Infertility Alzheimer’s disease Parkinson’s disease Multiple sclerosis ALS, and more
While Monsanto insists that Roundup is as safe to humans as aspirin, Seneff and Samsel’s research tells a different story altogether. Their report, published in the journal Entropy1, argues that glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GE sugar, corn, soy and wheat, “enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.”
Interestingly, your gut bacteria are a key component of glyphosate’s mechanism of harm.
Monsanto has steadfastly claimed that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals. However, the shikimate pathway IS present in bacteria, and that’s the key to understanding how it causes such widespread systemic harm in both humans and animals.
The bacteria in your body outnumber your cells by 10 to 1. For every cell in your body, you have 10 microbes of various kinds, and all of them have the shikimate pathway, so they will all respond to the presence of glyphosate!
Glyphosate causes extreme disruption of the microbe’s function and lifecycle. What’s worse, glyphosate preferentially affects beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to overgrow and take over. At that point, your body also has to contend with the toxins produced by the pathogens. Once the chronic inflammation sets in, you’re well on your way toward chronic and potentially debilitating disease. In the interview above, Dr. Seneff reviews a variety of chronic diseases, explaining how glyphosate contributes to each condition. So to learn more, I urge you to listen to it in its entirety. It’s quite eye-opening.
The research reveals that glyphosate inhibits cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes, a large and diverse group of enzymes that catalyze the oxidation of organic substances. This, the authors state, is “an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals.” One of the functions of CYP enzymes is to detoxify xenobiotics—chemical compounds found in a living organism that are not normally produced or consumed by the organism in question. By limiting the ability of these enzymes to detoxify foreign chemical compounds, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of chemicals and environmental toxins you may be exposed to.
But that’s not all. Dr. Stephanie Seneff has been conducting research at MIT for over three decades. She also has an undergraduate degree in biology from MIT and a minor in food and nutrition, and I have previously interviewed her about her groundbreaking insights into the critical importance of sulfur in human health. Not surprisingly, this latest research also touches on sulfur, and how it is affected by glyphosate from food.
“[W]e show how interference with CYP enzymes acts synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria, as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport,” the authors write.
“Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. ... [T]he recent alarming increase in all of these health issues can be traced back to a combination of gut dysbiosis, impaired sulfate transport, and suppression of the activity of the various members of the cytochrome P450 (CYP) family of enzymes.”
For the past 30 years, Dr. Seneff has been passionate about teasing out potential causes of autism, after seeing what it was like for a close friend whose son was diagnosed. She points out the clear correlations between increased glyphosate use over recent years (the result of genetically engineered crops causing weed resistance, necessitating ever-larger amounts to be used) and skyrocketing autism rates.
The rate of autism has risen so quickly, there can be no doubt that it has an environmental cause. Our genes simply cannot mutate fast enough to account for the rapid rise we’re now seeing. The latest statistics released by the CDC on March 20 show that 1 in 50 children in the US now fall within the autism spectrum2,3, with a 5:1 boy to girl ratio. Just last year the CDC reported a rate of 1 in 88, which represented a 23 percent increase since 2010, and 78 percent since 2007. Meanwhile, I remember when the incidence of autism in the US was only 1 in 100,000—just short of 30 years ago!
Dr. Seneff identified two key problems in autism that are unrelated to the brain yet clearly associated with the condition—both of which are linked with glyphosate exposure (starting at 10 minutes into the interview, she gives an in-depth explanation of how glyphosate causes the many symptoms associated with autism):
- Gut dysbiosis (imbalances in gut bacteria, inflammation, leaky gut, food allergies such as gluten intolerance)
- Disrupted sulfur metabolism / sulfur and sulfate deficiency
Interestingly, certain microbes in your body actually break down glyphosate, which is a good thing. However, a byproduct of this action is ammonia, and children with autism tend to have significantly higher levels of ammonia in their blood than the general population. Ditto for those with Alzheimer’s disease. In your brain, ammonia causes encephalitis, i.e. brain inflammation.
Another devastating agent you really do not want in your body is formaldehyde, which a recent nutritional analysis discovered is present in genetically engineered corn at a level that is 200 times the amount that animal studies have determined to be toxic to animals. Formaldehyde destroys DNA and can cause cancer.
Other research backing up the Roundup-autism link is that from former US Navy staff scientist Dr. Nancy Swanson. She has a Ph.D. in physics, holds five US patents and has authored more than 30 scientific papers and two books on women in science. Ten years ago, she became seriously ill, and in her journey to regain her health she turned to organic foods. Not surprisingly (for those in the know) her symptoms dramatically improved. This prompted her to start investigating genetically engineered foods.
She has meticulously collected statistics on glyphosate usage and various diseases and conditions, including autism. A more perfect match-up between the rise in glyphosate usage and incidence of autism is hard to imagine... To access her published articles and reports, please visit Sustainable Pulse4, a European website dedicated to exposing the hazards of genetically engineered foods.
What the biotech industry, spearheaded by Monsanto, has managed to do is turn food into poison... quite literally, and in more ways than one. Here, we’re just talking about the effects of Roundup. There are plenty of indications that the genetic alteration of a crop itself can pose significant health concerns. So with the vast majority of GE crops, you have no less than two potentially hazardous factors to contend with, glyphosate toxicity being just one part of the equation.
As discussed above, glyphosate has a number of devastating biological effects. So much so that it may very well be one of the most important factors in the development of a wide variety of modern diseases and conditions, including autism. In summary, these detrimental effects include:
Nutritional deficiencies, as glyphosate immobilizes certain nutrients and alters the nutritional composition of the treated crop Disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids (these are essential amino acids not produced in your body that must be supplied via your diet) Increased toxin exposure (this includes high levels of glyphosate and formaldehyde in the food itself) Impairment of sulfate transport and sulfur metabolism; sulfate deficiency Systemic toxicity—a side effect of extreme disruption of microbial function throughout your body; beneficial microbes in particular, allowing for overgrowth of pathogens Gut dysbiosis (imbalances in gut bacteria, inflammation, leaky gut, food allergies such as gluten intolerance) Enhancement of damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and environmental toxins as a result of glyphosate shutting down the function of detoxifying enzymes Creation of ammonia (a byproduct created when certain microbes break down glyphosate), which can lead to brain inflammation associated with autism and Alzheimer’s disease
It's important to understand that the glyphosate sprayed on conventional and genetically engineered crops actually becomes systemic throughout the plant, so it cannot be washed off. It's inside the plant. For example, genetically engineered corn has been found to contain 13 ppm of glyphosate, compared to zero in non-GMO corn. At 13 ppm, GMO corn contains more than 18 times the “safe” level of glyphosate set by the EPA. Organ damage in animals has occurred at levels as low as 0.1 ppm. If that’s not reason enough to become a label reader to avoid anything with corn in it, such as corn oil or high fructose corn syrup, I don’t know what is.
You’d also be wise to stop using Roundup around your home, where children and pets can come into contact with it simply by walking across the area.
Until the US requires genetically engineered (GE) foods to be labeled, the only way you can avoid GE ingredients is to make whole, fresh organic foods the bulk of your diet, and to only buy 100% USDA certified organic processed foods. Meats need to be grass-fed or pastured to make sure the animals were not fed GE corn or soy feed.
Last but not least, do not confuse the “natural” label with organic standards.
The natural label is not based on any standards and is frequently misused by sellers of GE products. Growers and manufacturers of organic products bearing the USDA seal, on the other hand, have to meet the strictest standards of any of the currently available organic labels. In order to qualify as organic, a product must be grown and processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity. Crops must be grown without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
Test March 5, 2013 June 17, 2013 Normal Range
Total Cholesterol 282 245 100 -- 199
Triglycerides 135 123 0 -- 149
HDL Cholesterol 59 57 More than 39
LDL Cholesterol 196 163 0 -- 99
Glucose, Serum 94 89 65 -- 99
IGF-1 109 90 35 -- 168
Height and Age 5’7” (67”) 76 Years, 6 Months
Waist Size 47.25” 42.5” 33”
Weight 202 Lbs 185 Lbs 118 -- 159 Lbs
BMI 31.79 (Obese) 29 (Overweight) 18.5 -- 24.9
I lost 17 pounds in 15 weeks and to get to to 159 pounds or less it will probably take another 30 weeks, which will be sometime in the middle of January 2014 (Dr. Mosley reports the closer you get to your normal weight the slower the weight loss).
There is another test that Dr. Mosley recommends. It is balancing your weight on your non-dominant foot. In March I couldn’t do it for more than one second. Now I can do it for 15 seconds. Not much better, but I’m improving. (Dale and Sandy can each stand on one foot for 15 minutes or more.)
Note: Dr. Mosley reported in his Fast Diet book that Dr. Krista Varady of the University of Illinois at Chicago is now researching why people on Alternate Day Fasting (ADF), which is her research specialty, lose fat but don’t seem to lose significant muscle mass, and why people on ADF don't seem to fully compensate for the calories they've missed by eating more on their feed days.
June 21, 2013
I have been reading the road to health for a long time. Before the internet when everything was done by the mail.
I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate your articles and especially the article and video attachment on fasting.
I have been fasting pretty much twice a week for about 6 weeks–two months. I keep my calories down to 400-500 calories on the fast day. I don’t make a soup like you do. I just have organic miso soup (50 calories) and put some lettuce in with it.
Two good things have happened.
1. For many years I could feel my liver enlarged. I have done tons of liver cleanses to no avail. But now my liver doesn’t feel so large. The pressure isn’t there. I know I am more healthy.
2. My allergies are very bad in the summer. I get hives really, really bad. One year it was so bad I had to take prescription steroids and I don’t believe in taking medicine. But this year so far I really haven’t had my problem with hives. A slight itching.
I just wanted to tell you my experience and to say I am grateful for your information you send out. You’re doing a great job. Keep us posted on how you are doing.
Light and Love, Ginny C.
June 22, 2013
How wonderful that your liver feels better. And your allergies are not as bad. This fasting information is so valuable.
I couldn't wait for another three months (as I originally planned) to find out how my IGF-1 level is doing so, on June 13th, I had another blood test. In three months on the Fast Diet my IGF-1 level dropped 19 points (it was 109 on March 21st and, on June 13th, it was 90). The US recommended IGF-1 level is between 35 and 168.
Dr. Mosley's IGF-1 level dropped 13 points in three months and I'd like to know how to compare that to my 19 points because in England they use a different scale of recommended numbers (his IGF-1 level was 28.6 before starting the fast diet and three months later it was 15.9). The English recommended IGF-1 level is between 11.3 and 30.9.
A lower number is better as it means you have a lower risk of developing a number of age-related diseases, such as cancer.
The only visible improvements in my health lately have been noticed by Sandy. When I couldn't think of anything and I asked Dale and Sandy if they had, Sandy said "Yes, definitely, you are not wincing at loud noises like you used to and you're not eating ice cream or potato chips anymore." Wow, she's right and I never thought of either one!
The loud noise problem I had was so bad that one day last year I asked at Costco about it (they have a department where they test people's hearing) and the answer was that feeling pain when hearing a loud noise could be an indication of hearing loss. (One of the loud noises that made me wince was when someone sanding behind me in line at the grocery store would answer a cell phone and start talking -- it felt like they were shouting right in my ear and it actually hurt.)
I could hear just fine when listening to people talk (calmly) in person or over the phone, but I was missing words when watching TV. Dale fixed that by turning on the Closed Caption feature on the TV. Now, I think I can hear what people are saying on the TV better, but I still like reading the printed words on the screen, especially when the words to a song that is being sung are shown.
Something as simple (and inexpensive) as fasting, which everyone seems to be able to do when they get a glucose or lipid profile blood test done, for 12 hours twice a day twice a week, seems like a small price to pay to get such huge improvements in our health like your liver pressure and allergies getting better and my shoulder pain and allergies getting better.
Your organic miso soup sounds like a good alternative to my vegetable soup. I just spent a few hours today trimming vegetables. I'm lucky I have the time, however, Dale is helping me even more now by using some new attachments he bought for our Bosch mixer and it cut the time I'm spending on the project every week by half (he cut up the green onions and leeks with the Bosch and all I had to do was trim them).
Thank you so much for your encouragement. I love being the guinea pig, especially when I have a gut feeling that the experiment will be a success.
June 23, 2013
Fasting really is a small price to pay. Plus you’re not paying for a vitamin, mineral or machine. Its just our body doing what is natural for it.
I also forgot to mention that for 30 years I have been getting a chiropractic adjustment. Basically since I was in a car accident 30 years ago. I get the adjustment once every couple of weeks. The adjustments are always hard to do.
The chiropractor has to really yank each adjustment. Plus only 1-2 alignments go into place. After a few weeks on the diet all the adjustments were very easy and 5-6 alignments went into place. The past few years I have felt my bones getting weaker. But with this diet I feel my bones are getting stronger.
I would love to have a Bosch. – But not now, plus I don’t have the time. Good to hear you do have the time.
Light and Love, Ginny
I started to follow the fast diet initially to lose weight, but after reading The Fast Diet book I am very interested in the link between fasting and cancer. My father (at 63), his two brothers, and his mother (at 58) all died of cancer.
This is an excerpt from the “The Fast Diet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting” by Dr. Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer:
My father was a lovely man but not a particularly healthy one. Overweight for much of his life, by the time he reached his sixties he had developed not only diabetes but also prostate cancer. He had an operation to remove the prostate cancer, which left him with embarrassing urinary problems. Understandably, I am not at all keen to go down that road.
My four-day fast, under Valter Longo’s supervision, had shown me that it was possible to dramatically cut my IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) levels and by doing so, hopefully, my prostate cancer risk. I later discovered that by doing intermittent fasting and being a bit more careful with my protein intake, I could keep my IGF-1 down at healthy levels. The link between growth, fasting, and cancer is worth unpacking.
The cells in our bodies are constantly multiplying, replacing dead, worn out, or damaged tissue. This is fine as long as cellular growth is under control, but sometimes a cell mutates, grows uncontrollably, and turns into a cancer. Very high levels of a cellular stimulant like IGF-1 in the blood are likely to increase the chance of this happening.
When a cancer goes rogue, the normal options are surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy. Surgery is used to try to remove the tumor; chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used to try to poison it. The major problem with chemotherapy and radiotherapy is that they are not selective; as well as killing tumor cells they will also kill or damage surrounding healthy cells. They are particularly likely to damage rapidly dividing cells such as hair roots, which is why hair commonly falls out following therapy.
As I mentioned above, Walter Longo has shown that when we are deprived of food for even quite short periods of time, our body responds by slowing things down, going into repair and survival mode until food is once more abundant. That is true of normal cells. But cancer cells follow their own rules. They are, almost by definition, not under control and will go on selfishly proliferating whatever the circumstances. This “selfishness” creates an opportunity. At least in theory, if you fast just before chemotherapy, you create a situation in which your normal cells are hibernating while the cancer cells are running amok and are therefore more vulnerable.
In a paper published in 2008, Valter and colleagues showed that fasting “protects normal but not cancer cells against high-dose chemotherapy,” followed by another paper in which they showed that fasting increased the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs against a variety of cancers. Again as is so often the case, this was a study done in mice. But the implications of Valters work were not missed by an eagle-eyed administrative judge named Nora Quinn, who saw a short article about it in the Los Angeles Times.
I met Nora in Los Angeles. She is a feisty woman with a terrific, dry sense of humor. Nora first noticed she had a problem when, one morning, she put her hand on her breast and felt a lump the size of a walnut under her skin. After indulging, as she put it, in the fantasy that it was a cyst, she went to the doctor; it was removed and sent to a pathologist.
“The reality of your life always comes out in pathology,” she told me. When the pathology report came back, it said that she had invasive breast cancer. She had a course of radiotherapy and was about to start chemotherapy when she read about Valter’s work with mice.
She tried to speak to Valter, but he wouldn’t advise her because, up to that point, none of the trials he had run had been done with humans. He didn’t know if it was safe for someone about to undergo chemo to fast, and he certainly wasn’t going to encourage people like Nora to give it a go.
Undeterred, Nora did her own research and decided to try fasting for seven and a half days, before, during, and after her first bout of chemotherapy. Having discovered how tough it can be to do even a four-day fast while fully healthy, I’m surprised she was able to go through with it, though Nora says it’s not so hard and I’m just a wimp.
The results were mixed.
“After the first chemo I didn’t get that sick, but my hair fell out, so I thought it wasn’t working.” So next time she didn’t fast, and she was only medium sick. “I thought, seven and a half days of fasting to avoid being medium sick, this is a really bad deal. I am so not doing that again.”
So when it was time for her third course of chemo, she didn’t fast. That, she now feels, was a mistake. “I got sick. I don’t have words for how sick I was. I was weak, felt poisoned, and I couldn’t get up. I felt like I was moving through Jell-O. It was absolutely horrible.”
By the time Nora had to undergo her fourth course of chemo, she had decided to try fasting once again. This time things went much better and she made a good recovery. She is currently cancer free.
Nora is convinced she benefited from fasting, but it’s hard to be sure because she wasn’t part of a proper medical trial. Valter and his colleagues at USC did, however, study what happened to her and ten other patients with cancer who had also decided to put themselves on a fast. All of them reported fewer and less severe symptoms after chemotherapy, and most of them, including Nora, saw improvements in their blood results. The white cells and platelets, for example, recovered more rapidly when they had chemo while they were fasting than when they did not.
But why did Nora go rogue? Why didn’t she fast under proper supervision? She says: “I decided to fast based on years of information from animal testing. I do agree that if you are going to do crazy things like I did, you should have medical supervision. But how? None of my doctors would listen to me.” Nora’s self-experiment could have gone wrong, which is just one reason why such maverick behavior is not recommended. Her experience, however, and that of the other nine cancer patients, helped inspire further studies. For example, Valter and his colleagues have recently completed phase one of a clinical trial to see if fasting around the time of chemotherapy is safe–which it seems to be. The next phase is to assess whether it makes a measurable difference. At least ten other hospitals around the world are either doing or have agreed to do clinical trials.
Maybe it’s my brain producing increased levels of neurotrophic factor (see below: Recap of Dr. Mosley’s First Chapter of His Book, The Fast Diet), but I’ve been feeling more and more like learning how to use the computer and sharing my experiences in the alternative health world with people who are as interested as I am in how to be healthy and live a long life.
I’ve been creating slide shows. See the latest: “Making Dr. Gerson’s Hippocrates Soup” on www.bonnieosullivan.com and I’ve even posted a “Before” picture of myself (with Dale at his niece's wedding reception in January).
My next project is to get dressed in the same outfit (and get Dale to put his suit on again) to see if anyone can tell that I’ve lost 16 pounds since starting The Fast Diet on March 5, 2013.
Recap of Dr. Michael Mosley’s First Chapter of His Book, The Fast Diet), as to why intermittent fasting works: People lose excess fat, they benefit from the switching on of countless repair genes in response to the fasting stressor, it gives your pancreas a rest, which boosts the effectiveness of the insulin it produces in response to elevated blood glucose (increased insulin sensitivity will reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive decline) and, last but not least, it gives an overall enhancement in your mood and sense of well-being (this may be a consequence of your brain producing increased levels of neurotrophic factor, which will hopefully make you more cheerful and in turn should make fasting more doable).
Note: Neurotrophic factor is best known for roles in both development and continued maintenance of the nervous system.
Bonnie and Dale
The article, The Fast Diet, Inside The New Weight-Loss Craze, that appeared in the March 25, 2013 issue of People magazine by Suzanne Zuckerman with Catherine Kast tried to make the Fast Diet sound dangerous.
The article is about the success in the US of a book that was published in the United Kingdom in February 2013, The Fast Diet, Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting (eating only 500 calories in 24 hours twice a week on non-consecutive days). It intrigued me because I knew something about fasting: I fasted on lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne for four days in a row (The Master Cleanse) several times in the early 70s with no harmful side effects.
After learning more about the coauthors of The Fast Diet, Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer, and reading their book, which contains many scientific references and their own stories of following the Fast Diet program, any doubts that the diet could harm me were put to rest.
Dr. Mosley trained to be a doctor at the Royal Free Hospital in London, England, and after passing his medical exam, joined the BBC 25 years ago as a television producer. He has created numerous award-winning science and history documentaries for the BBC and for America’s Discovery Channel, TLC, and PBS. Among them was the Emmy-nominated series The Human Face, with John Cleese and Liz Hurley, the Emmy Award-winning Pompeii: The Last Day, and the Emmy-nominated Supervolcano. As a presenter he has made a dozen series for the BBC, including Medical Maverics, Blood and Guts, Inside Michael Mosley, Science Story, The Young Ones, Inside the Human Body, and The Truth About Exercise. For his contributions to medical programming, Dr. Mosley was named Medical Journalist of the Year by the British Medical Association.
For more than 20 years Ms. Spencer has been a feature writer and columnist for national newspapers and magazines in the UK, including The Observer, The Times, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. She has had a column in the Mail on Sunday for over a decade, writing for 3 million weekly readers about fashion, beauty, food, lifestyle, diet, and body shape. In 2009 she wrote “101 Things to Do Before You Diet.” Today, she writes regularly on women’s issues and lifestyle for the Saturday Times, Marie Claire, Red, and other publications.
The People article quoted critics to the Fast Diet, “Five hundred calories a day is potentially dangerous,” says Dr. David L. Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “You’ll probably have a headache and feel distracted.”
Other experts worry about cravings. “If you eat very little on Monday, by Tuesday you may say, I am going to have that brownie because yesterday I ate nothing.” says Karen Ansel, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I can see more junk working its way into this diet, and over time you could end up with serious nutrient deficiencies.”
Dr. Katz goes further: “There’s a potential with this to push people into full-blown binge-eating disorders, where they have extreme restraint and don’t eat anything, and then when they’re eating again, they go completely bonkers.”
After being on the Fast Diet (also called the 5:2 Diet) for 12 weeks I disagree with both Dr. Katz and Karen Ansel. They obviously have not spoken to anyone who is on the Fast Diet program nor have they tried the program themselves.
I agree with Dr. Mosley and Ms. Spencer when they say that their feast-and-famine approach helps people make healthier choices. On fast days, “you cannot have a jelly doughnut and get through the day,” says Ms. Spencer, 45, who lost 20 lbs. in four months on the Fast Diet program.
“The hope is that you learn to like vegetables and lean proteins and end up incorporating them into your nonfasting days,” adds Dr. Mosley, who also cites studies done on rats and mice that say intermittent fasting extends life expectancy. As for the rest of the week, “don’t use this as an opportunity to pig out.”
Dr. Mosley is using himself as an example of the Fast Diet program’s success (at 56 he dropped 20 lbs. and brought his blood test results for heart disease risk into the safe range in three months on the plan. He is now in maintenance mode where he fasts only once a week).
I am convinced I can continue on the program for the rest of my life. I do not have a problem with feeling hungry as, after reading the book, I know it’s really good for me and I only feel hungry for a little while twice a week. I remind myself on fast days that I’m “fooling” my body into thinking it is in a potential famine situation and it needs to switch from go-go mode to maintenance mode thus reducing my risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline. I believe it is true that our bodies are designed to respond to stresses and shocks, and that it makes them healthier, tougher.
As to when to eat during fast days (is it better to divide the 500 calories into smaller portions eaten throughout the 24 hours or eat them all at once 12 to 20 or more hours into the 24 hour period?) studies are being conducted now to find out and we should have the results soon, but, so far, it seems the longer you wait to eat on fast days the better.
While I wait to eat toward the end of the 24 hours I remind myself that Dr. Mark Mattson at the National Institute on Aging thinks the longer the body goes without food, the greater the adaptive cellular stress response, which is particularly good for the brain.
Note: Intermittent severe calorie restriction is a positive stressor that triggers your body's adaptive cellular stress response. This phenomenon, the adaptive cellular stress response, is astonishingly precise and powerful. Positive stressors — exercise, severe calorie restriction, and certain phyto-chemicals in food (which are found in Anna's Perfect Green Soup and Dr. Gerson's Hippocrates Soup) — kick the body’s cellular maintenance functions into high gear, so our cells take care of themselves more efficiently and thoroughly than they would ordinarily. This also happens to be how they maintained themselves when we were young and at the peak of health. So, with cellular maintenance on overdrive, our bodies will continue to protect themselves from chronic inflammation, which causes a vast assortment of serious illnesses, not to mention overall aging.
My routine on fast days goes like this: After eating a meal, waiting an hour or two and sleeping for 8 hours I have a large cup of my homemade vegetable broth mixed with some Anna's Perfect Green Soup and Dr. Gerson's Hippocrates Soup. Then I drink water for the next 12 hours or more and then I have more broth and soup. Sometimes I can go 24 hours without having more than 100 calories of soup. However, if I feel really hungry I’ll eat 300 or 350 calories after 20 or 22 hours have gone by since my last meal. As the weeks go by I have a greater ability to wait to eat and I don’t think of it as will power; I think of it as getting accustomed to fasting.
My progress on the Fast Diet program has been very interesting. My bursitis in my left shoulder improved immediately and continued to improve until it completely disappeared after about two months. Recently something very hard for me to believe has happened: my April to June allergies have not appeared this year at all (even when I'm outdoors). I've suffered from springtime allergies for most of my life. When I was 16 my family visited my aunt and uncle in the San Francisco Bay Area (Marin) in June (1953) and the whole time we were here my eyes watered to the point that I couldn't see (for a week my mother guided me around whenever we were outside as though I were blind). In October 1982 I spent a month at the Gerson Cancer Institute in Mexico as a helper for a friend with cancer and I followed the whole cancer program (the daily 13 glasses of fresh organic vegetable juice, 2 coffee enemas, vegan diet) as it is supposed to heal allergies as well. After that my allergies were greatly improved, but gradually they began to bother me again, but never as much as before. Since I became friends with Dr. Kelley in 1996, and he recommended I try taking his enzymes between April and June, my allergies have been tolerable as long as I remembered to take the enzymes with my meals (at any other time of the year I couldn't tolerate the enzymes even with meals as they burned my stomach). So, because I've been on the Fast Diet program since March 5, 2013, this spring is the first year of living in California that I can remember not having even a hint of allergies (and not needing enzymes) from April to June.
Dale's Article on "Why you should take enzymes"
Enzymes Purchase Link
Getting back to the People magazine article, I believe the writers were unfairly negative in their story about the Fast Diet program. First they called it a “Craze” then they quoted a nutritional spokeswoman who said the diet has the potential to push people into full-blown binge-eating disorders (I find this offensive as I believe the Fast Diet would be an enormous help for anyone with an eating disorder). Then they chose to close with the only less-than-encouraging comment Dr. Mosley probably has ever made about the Fast Diet: “It’s a powerful thing to do, and some people find they just can’t take it.”
By following the Fast Diet I’ve lost 13 pounds in 11 weeks. I am losing a little more than one pound a week. When I started on March 5, 2013 I weighed 202 pounds. Today, May 22, 2013 I weigh 189 pounds.
On April 8, 2013 my daughter, Sandy, measured my abdominal area in three places (across my belly button and two inches above it and two inches below it). The upper number was 46.25 inches, the middle number was 47.25 inches and the lower number was 47.5 inches. On May 22, 2013 she measured it again. The upper number was 44.5 inches, the middle number was 46 inches and the lower number was 46 inches. I am happy to report that I have lost four and a quarter inches of abdominal fat.
According to http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-risks-of-belly-fat:
“Research shows that abdominal fat triggers a change in angiotensin, a hormone that controls blood vessel constriction -- increasing the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.
“Indeed, belly fat is a key indicator of "metabolic syndrome," a cluster of abnormalities that include high levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, and triglycerides, as well as low levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. This combination of risks has an impact on mortality from heart disease.”
I enjoy this diet thoroughly. It’s teaching me about my body’s reaction to certain foods clearly. Before I was never positive if my reaction was due to one food or another. Now, after fasting for 24 hours, when I eat something, I know within 30 minutes if the food or combination of foods is something I want to eat regularly. (The foods that cause me to over eat are to be avoided.)
One of my favorite foods is Dr. Gerson’s Hippocrates Soup. It is my second favorite after Anna's Perfect Green Soup. Sometimes I mix them together for a third soup. I have been eating about 18 fluid ounces of these two soups once every day and two times on fasting days (since green vegetables are very low in calories, I am counting 50 calories for the soup). I've been having one large cup of soup a few hours after I wake up and again 12 or more hours later (I sometimes wait 20 or more hours before I eat a 300 to 350 calorie meal).
My energy on fasting days is very good. On non fasting days I often get sleepy after eating and give in to taking a nap for a few hours. I’m working on avoiding the foods that cause me to get sleepy.