A study shows that fasting increases human metabolism


Fasting increases human metabolism, according to a study

A study by the G0 Cell Unit and researchers at Kyoto University suggests that fasting, which puts the body in "starvation mode", leads to fuel substitution, antioxidation, increased mitochondrial activation and altered signal transduction. Credit: Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University

Fasting can help people lose weight, but new research suggests that going without food can also increase human metabolic activity, generate antioxidants and help reverse some of the effects of aging. Scientists from Okinawa Graduate Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) and Kyoto University identified 30 previously uninformed substances whose amount increases during fasting and indicate a variety of health benefits.

"We have investigated aging and metabolism for many years and decided to look for unknown effects for health in human fasting," said Dr. Takayuki Teruya, first author of the article and technician of the OIST G0 Cell Unit, led by Prof Mitsuhiro Yanagida. "Contrary to the original expectation, it turned out that metabolic activation induced by fasting was quite active."

The study, published on January 29, 2019 in. Scientific reports, presents an badysis of complete human blood, plasma and red blood cells extracted from four fasting individuals. The researchers monitored the changing levels of metabolites, substances formed during chemical processes that give energy to organisms and allow them to grow. The results revealed 44 metabolites, including 30 that were not previously recognized, that increased universally between the subjects between 1.5 and 60 times in only 58 hours of fasting.

In previous research, the G0 Cell Unit identified several metabolites whose amounts decrease with age, including three known as leucine, isoleucine and ophthalmic acid. In fasting individuals, these metabolites increase in level, suggesting a mechanism by which fasting may help increase longevity.

"These are very important metabolites for the maintenance of muscle and antioxidant activity, respectively," said Teruya. "This result suggests the possibility of a rejuvenating effect due to fasting, which until now was not known."

Metabolites give clues to the mechanism and effects on health

The human body tends to use carbohydrates for quick energy, when they are available. When it lacks carbohydrates, the body begins to loot its reserves of alternative energy. The act of "energy substitution" leaves a trail of evidence, namely the metabolites known as butyrates, carnitines and branched-chain amino acids. It has been shown that these well-known markers of energy substitution accumulate during fasting.

But fasting seems to cause effects far beyond the substitution of energy. In their comprehensive badysis of human blood, the researchers noted that both established fasting markers and many more. For example, they found a global increase in the substances produced by the citric acid cycle, a process by which organisms release energy stored in the chemical bonds of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. The marked increase suggests that, during fasting, the small power stations that run each cell are thrown into overdrive.

Fasting also seems to improve the metabolism of purine and pyrimidine, chemicals that play a key role in gene expression and protein synthesis. The finding suggests that fasting can reprogram what proteins form cells at what time, thus altering their function. The change may promote homeostasis in the cells, or serve to edit their gene expression in response to environmental influences.

When it is metabolized, purine and pyrimidine also increase the body's production of antioxidants. It was found that several antioxidants, such as ergothioneine and carnosine, increased significantly during the 58-hour study period. Antioxidants serve to protect cells from free radicals produced during metabolism. The products of a metabolic pathway called the "pentose phosphate pathway" also avoid the harmful effects of oxidation, and it was also observed that they increased during fasting, but only in the plasma.

New benefits for the health of the fast?

The authors suggest that these antioxidant effects may be the body's main response to fasting, since starvation can encourage a dangerously oxidative internal environment. His exploratory study provides the first evidence of antioxidants as a fasting marker. In addition, the study introduces the novel notion that fasting could increase the production of several metabolites related to age, abundant in young people, but depleted in the old.

"Recent studies on aging have shown that caloric restriction and fasting have a prolonged effect on lifespan in model animals … but the detailed mechanism remains a mystery," said Teruya. "It may be possible to verify the anti-aging effect from several points of view by developing exercise programs or medications capable of causing the metabolic reaction similar to fasting."

The findings broaden the established ideas of what fasting could do for human health. The next step would be to replicate these results in a larger study, or investigate how metabolic changes could be triggered by other means.

"People are interested in knowing whether humans can enjoy the effects of preventing metabolic diseases and prolonging lifespan by fasting or caloric restriction, as is the case with model animals," Teruya said. "It is expected that understanding the metabolic changes caused by fasting will provide us with wisdom to maintain health."

A study reveals how fasting can improve general health and protect against diseases badociated with aging

More information:
Takayuki Teruya et al. Various metabolic reactions activated during the 58-hour fast are revealed by an unmanaged metabolic badysis of human blood. Scientific reports (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-018-36674-9

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Okinawa Institute of the Graduate University of Science and Technology

Fasting increases human metabolism, according to a study (2019, January 31)
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