14th of December 2014

Give your cells a break!

Paleo, fruitarian, raw food, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free. How can it be that there are so many different diets all claiming to be the best for your health? Twenty years ago, high carbohydrate, low fat and protein diet was considered to be the best for your health.

Nowadays, we are overwhelmed by a number of different diets and the most striking thing about them is that caloric restriction is the only thing they mostly have in common.  You have to be mindful of what you eat, which means that you have to actually observe and count what you eat.


How about taking this clue, forgetting about the differences and simply eating less? Could it make you healthier?


According to a recent experiment conducted at the NYU Langone Medical Center, calorie restricting diets in mice stop the rise and fall in activity levels of close to 900 different genes linked to aging and memory formation in the brain, delaying the onset of dementia. There has been a number of studies proving that calorie restricted diets bring different health benefits, such as decreased blood pressure, lowering the risk of diabetes etc. A recent study from the University of California even provides evidence that fasting stimulates regeneration of damaged, old cells of the immune system.


Is it all nonsense? We all know very well that human body needs energy, proteins, vitamins and minerals to function properly. It will definitely suffer if we don’t supply all those vital nutrients regularly! What is the body going to do if we interrupt that supply?


Well, the fact is that in shortage of food, our body starts digesting itself - literally.  It may sound scary, but that’s actually a very useful and necessary function. The body works like a factory with many different machines and components which are gradually worn out and must be replaced. In fact, we lose around 1 million cells per second! If you ever wondered what happens with all those cells, the simple answer is they are either shed into the outer environment (skin cells or gut cells) or broken down and digested very much the same way as the food that enters our body. If those dead cells, which cannot be shed into the outer environment, were not digested and removed regularly, our body would soon be flooded by toxic waste. It is actually a very neat solution, because it allows us to use the same mechanisms for retrieving vital nutrients from ingested food and recycling broken parts of our system.


However, our body has only limited capacity to process either food or recycled material. Therefore stopping the food supply for some time actually gives your body a very valuable break that is used for recycling and repair. If you close the tap halfway, your body will get very busy recycling because it might not get enough energy and nutrients from outer source.


Researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have recently shown in mice that confining caloric consumption to a shorter (8-12h) window during the day might actually lead to weight loss and prevent obesity and related health complications even without restricting caloric consumption. A very similar diet promoted as intermittent fasting has been around for quite a while and now you can already guess why it works.


If you worry about not getting enough proteins, carbohydrates or vitamins, remember that your body is very good at recycling. It’s better to give your cells a regular break for recycling and maintenance, than overwhelming their processing (and excretory) capacities with too much of nutrients. I suspect that it can even give you a few extra years of life. And the last benefit of all - you will get all this by saving instead of further expenses.


Author: Martin  Lukan, PhD



University of Southern California. (2014, June 5). Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 8, 2014 from


NYU Langone Medical Center. (2014, November 17). Calorie-restricting diets slow aging, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 7, 2014 from


Salk Institute for Biological Studies. (2014, December 2). Another case against the midnight snack: Researchers tinker with a time-restricted diet in mice and find that it's remarkably forgiving. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 8, 2014 from