For a while, studies have been suggesting that fasting might be associated with longer life. For example, mice who are put on low-calorie diets tend to live longer and develop fewer diseases during the aging process. However, this principle has been hard to confirm in humans because of the difficulty of long-term fasting in daily life. Now, a study has come along that shows fasting only part of the time may have similar benefits.

"People don't want to just under-eat for their whole lives. We started thinking about the concept of intermittent fasting," said Martin Wegman, the study's co-author and an M.D.-Ph.D. student at the University of Florida College of Medicine. 

The researchers recruited 24 subjects for the study and put them on a diet where they consumed 25 percent of their usual caloric intake on one day, then 175 percent of their intake the next day. They followed this schedule during a three-week period, eating only one meal on fasting days and several large meals on feasting days. 

At the end of three weeks, the researchers found that the subjects' levels of a protective protein called SIRT3 had increased. Proteins of this type, called sirtuins, have been shown to extend the lifespans of mice by improving their bodies' responses to oxidative stress, which occurs at low levels during fasting. 

Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., another co-author of the study, said in a statement, "You need some pain, some inflammation, some oxidative stress for some regeneration or repair."

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