Fasting diets are popular as many find them helpful for losing weight and there are some indications that they increase your life expectancy. However, a British study proves that following such a diet could have harmful effects on the health of future generations.
Could our descendants be affected by our long periods of fasting? All the rage in weight-loss programs, fasting is said to have benefits for health and weight loss but also on lifespan. However, according to a British study, following such a diet could impact our descendants’ reproduction capacities, according to researchers from the University of East Anglia.
“We know that reduced food intake increases the lifespan in many animals and can potentially improve health in humans,” outlined Dr Edward Ivimey-Cook of UEA’s School of Biological Sciences. “However, little is known about the long-term effects of reduced food intake, including time-limited fasting, on distant descendants.”
“We wanted to find out more about the potential long-term impact of fasting diets”
To measure the effects of the fasting diet, the researchers observed four generations of Caenorhabditis elegans. These are roundworms with a two-week lifespan that share many genes and molecular pathways that control development with humans.
After allowing the first generation to eat as much as they wanted, the researchers put these worms on a fasting diet. Then they classified their offspring into two groups, putting one of them on a fasting diet and allowing the other one to eat as much as they wanted to.
Differing results depending on the diet of the offspring
The lifespan of the first generation was extended and when descendants followed the same diet as their parents, reproductive performance was improved. However, the group that had access to limited food, after their parents fasted, showed reduced reproductive performance. This effect was evident in the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
This study is food for thought for anyone who is fasting or thinking about fasting, encouraging them to consider the effects on future generations of the dietary practice.
“This is really important because it means we need to carefully consider the long-term effects of fasting when trying to pursue healthy lifestyles – because the detrimental impact may only manifest itself in distant generations,” concluded the researcher.