Cramping all of your dog’s calories into a period of time during the day does amazing things for their physiology. Aside from maintaining “cellular youth” and slowing aging, research has shown that the practice promotes more energy, increases fat burning, and reduces the risk of developing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, all because fasting activates autophagy.
Mark Mattson, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and former director of the Neuroscience Laboratory at the National Institute on Aging, is a prolific researcher in the field. He has collaborated with Panda on research and published extensively in the medical literature. He is particularly interested in the question of how fasting can improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.
Mattson has conducted studies in which he abandoned animals on alternative fasting days with a 10% to 25% reduced calorie diet on the days in between. “If you repeat that when animals are young, they live 30% longer,” he says. Read that sentence again. By changing when animals eat, we can extend their lifespan – many times over! It’s not just more time; there is more time with better health and fewer illnesses. Mattson even found that the animals’ neurons were more resistant to degeneration when this protocol was followed. And when he did similar studies on women over several weeks, he found that they lost more body fat, retained more lean muscle mass, and had improved glucose regulation.
Ironically, one of the mechanisms that triggers these biological responses is not just autophagy, but stress. During Lent, cells are under mild stress (a healthy, “good” type of stress) and they respond to that stress by improving their ability to cope with it and perhaps resist disease. Other studies have confirmed these results. Properly conducted fasting lowers blood pressure, improves insulin sensitivity, increases kidney function, improves brain function, regenerates the immune system and increases disease resistance in mammals across the board. Fasting is natural to a dog’s physiology as well, and they benefit in the same way.
Adapted from the book THE FOREVER DOG by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker. Copyright © 2021 by Rodney Habib and Karen Shaw Becker. Published by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted with permission.