Food gives us energy but not all food is equally beneficial for our bodies. When we are unwell, our bodies aren't functioning as they should, and we tend to pay close attention to what we consume. Once we feel well again, we may fall back into the habit of eating whatever is convenient and at whatever time is convenient. Sometimes, it is better to allow some time without food, giving our bodies time to use up the sugar and fats already present. Eating during a narrow interval every day is called intermittent fasting.
Humans have been intermittently fasting for thousands of years. While it might not have been called that, it was a necessity. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of a low-carb diet, keto/carnivore diets, intermittent fasting, blood sugar regulation and the benefits of Berberine when intermittent fasting. Berberine is a great supplement that can help with weight loss, but also to just support overall health in individuals that don’t aim to lose weight. Why? Because maintaining optimal blood sugar levels is crucial for our health and longevity. We take a look at why, in this blog post.
Intermittent fasting: what is intermittent fasting, how does it work, and what are the benefits?
Intermittent fasting is a narrow window when food is consumed. For example, Dr Elena Seranova (the founder of NMN Bio) consumes calories between 12 noon and 4 pm. Her first meal is rich in protein, activating the mTOR pathway, and the second meal is supplemented with Berberine which helps the AMPK pathway. Fasting allows for autophagy to occur in the liver and other tissues, depending on the duration of your fast.
The concept of intermittent fasting has been around for a long time. It was sometimes necessary but is also common in cultural traditions and religious beliefs. One of the main concepts behind intermittent fasting is autophagy. Fasting means refraining from eating and sometimes drinking.
In comparison, intermittent fasting means going through a timing process and not eating between these times. It is a diet that regulates when you eat, rather than what you eat. This type of diet has become popular due to research showing that it could be a way of controlling weight and showing life extension benefits in mice studies.
Before televisions and phones, it was easier to maintain a healthy weight, and we wouldn't constantly be snacking. The neuroscientist Dr Mark Mattson at Stanford University has been studying intermittent fasting for 25 years. His research identifies preventative and therapeutic remedies targeting neurodegenerative disorders by providing mice models with restricted diets. He claims that our bodies can function well without consuming food for many hours or days. Not consuming food constantly is how humans survived before they learnt to farm. Intermittent fasting uses fat deposits once sugar stores from the last meal have been used. The change from burning glucose to fats is referred to as metabolic switching. So, if perhaps you’re thinking you’re reaching for a snack whilst reading this article, think again!
Sirtuins and the sugar balancing Berberine
Sirtuins are a type of enzyme needed for various functions in the cell. They are necessary for regulating gene expression, controlling DNA repair, regulating metabolism, controlling stress response, and mitochondrial production. Sirtuins’ activity is dependent on NAD+ (which you can get from taking NMN supplements, read more here).
The malfunction of Sirtuin’s expression can cause cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular disease due to tissue degeneration. Sirtuin 1 is one of the most researched groups of Sirtuin enzymes. It is needed to regulate metabolic pathways, and its activation could be used as a treatment for metabolism disorders. It is also associated with insulin sensitivity.
The ability to activate Sirtuins is of interest to researchers because of novel compounds that could activate Sirtuin function that shows beneficial effects on human health. These include Quercetin and Berberine, which can be naturally found in some fruits and vegetables or taken as supplements.
Various studies have shown that Berberine, a non-polyphenolic substance, has protective properties. These include anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving properties, heart tissue-protective properties, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic properties. The precise mechanism by which berberine works is still being studied. But we already know that Berberine activates AMPK, a master regulator of autophagy in the body, the self-cleaning mechanism of the cell.
Losing weight with minimal exercise, how does intermittent fasting work?
Studies show that metabolic switching is triggered when eating for around 6 hours and fasting for 18 hours. The metabolic switch is from glucose-based to ketone-based energy. This diet increases stress resistance and longevity while decreasing the possibility of diseases like cancer and obesity.
Carbohydrates are molecules in every living thing and are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Carbohydrates are a source of energy in our diets and are classified into either simple or complex ones. Simple carbs are sugar molecules, for example, glucose, fructose, or sucrose, while complex carbs are made up of many molecules of simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates provide short-lived energy, while complex carbohydrates are broken down into simpler energy molecules, releasing them slowly.
Protein comprises amino acids with carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, or sulfur as their building blocks. It makes up muscle mass and various structures in the body. Consumed proteins are broken down into smaller amino acids using enzymes. Protein has a much smaller effect on blood sugar levels than carbohydrates and occurs over a few hours in a glucogenesis process. Because converting protein to glucose is much slower, it is easier to control. Some high-protein foods include eggs, almonds, chicken, fish, meat, cottage cheese, and legumes.
Fats are made up of fatty acids and glycerol, having a long chain of carbons. There are two main types of saturated and unsaturated fats, and the latter are usually liquid at room temperature and are recommended over saturated fats. Fats are digested slower than carbohydrates and protein. When eaten in modest amounts, they have a minor impact on glucose levels.
Intermittent fasting works by switching from using sugar from your last meal for energy to using up fat deposits. Figure 1 below shows what happens to blood sugar levels when consuming different macronutrients as time progresses. As you can see, carbohydrates are the first to cause a spike in blood sugar levels, followed by proteins and fat, and they also cause the highest point in sugar levels.
The benefits of intermittent fasting do not include just losing weight. Studies on humans and animals have shown other advantages, which include:
- Improvement of working memory
- Improves blood pressure and resting heart rate
- Improved endurance and fat loss without muscle loss.
- Prevention of obesity and diabetes.
- Improvement of markers of oxidative stress, even when alternate-day fasting.
- An increase in sirtuin, longevity proteins, and autophagy expression, which declines with age, ensures our cells are healthy.
Intermittent fasting and the low carbs, high-protein ketogenic diet
A degradation of nutrient sensitivity is one of the hallmarks of ageing. As we grow older, our insulin sensitivity drops, so we must find ways to prevent this from happening. One of the causes of increased blood sugar and insulin levels is consuming carbohydrates. An alternative diet which is low in carbohydrates and high in good fats and protein can help mitigate these effects. The ketogenic diet includes eliminating bread, milk, sugar, and rice and eating foods like avocado, meats, fish, vegetables, and a small proportion of fruits. In high-protein diets, the body switches from using glucose to using ketones for energy.
Switching to a keto diet can be difficult at first. Dr Elena Seranova suggests a gradual shift, eliminating carbohydrates and increasing protein intake. It is also essential to drink plenty of water, eat foods high in magnesium and potassium, avoid high-intensity exercise (at the start) and consume moderate amounts of fibre.
At first, levels of cholesterol could increase in the liver, but this effect is reduced with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting helps lower bad cholesterol and the lipid profile in the liver. After around 12 hours of fasting, autophagy kicks in. Like the ketogenic diet, you should ease into intermittent fasting.
If you’re intrigued about the effects of nutrients on ageing, supplements, reducing stress and physical training to improve longevity, check out this informative and practical online course.
How does Berberine help intermittent fasting?
Berberine is shown to induce autophagy by promoting cell death. Autophagy is a means by which the body clears dead cells while recycling cellular components and allowing new healthy cells to form. Autophagy begins when the levels of glucose and insulin drop while fasting.
Berberine also increases the sensitivity of insulin by activating AMPK (activated protein kinase), reducing inflammatory responses and reactive oxygen species. The activation of AMPK is essential as it helps regulate energy and its balance throughout the body. AMPK helps in the coordination of metabolic pathways while also balancing the nutrient supply and demand for energy. The AMPK pathway is a catabolic-activated pathway where the cell's building blocks are broken down and recycled into amino and fatty acids for other cells to use. The activation of the AMPK pathway increases longevity.
On the other hand, the mTOR pathway is associated with muscle building. The mTOR pathway is activated after a workout when amino acids are consumed. We don’t want this pathway activated all the time, which is where intermittent fasting comes in. Carb cycling is where you can balance activating one pathway and another to build muscle and increase longevity.
Summary and conclusions
- Intermittent fasting is when food is only consumed for a few hours a day.
- Intermittent fasting not only helps with losing weight with minimal exercise, but it also increases longevity, reduces the possibility of age-related disease and obesity, and improves insulin resistance.
- Berberine is a beneficial supplement to take during intermittent fasting because it helps in the process of autophagy and the activation of the AMPK pathway. You can find out more about the benefits of Berberine here and when to take it.
Nothing mentioned in this article is considered medical advice. Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements and starting a new exercise regime. Supplements do not replace a healthy diet, exercise and balanced lifestyle. Intermittent fasting is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women or those with a history of eating disorders.
References and Further reading