Fasting has become a bit of a health buzzword. And whilst I am usually very wary of any new and potentially fleeting health trends, fasting is something I have time for – and not least because it is actually not new at all. Intermittent fasting can actually be traced back to the days of the caveman as our ancestors practiced intermittent fasting out of necessity due to food scarcity and this ancient survival adaptation has also been proven to be beneficial for our health and improving many critical health markers. Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine himself, used fasting as part of the natural therapies he recommended. Which is why I was delighted when Prolon, the fasting company founded by the godfather of fasting for health benefits, Dr Valter Longo, suggested I try one of their five-day fasts. 

Who’s Behind Prolon?

Professor Valter Longo PhD is a world leader in longevity and fasting, and Director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California, one of the most respected ageing and gerontology (that’s the study of ageing to us layman’s) research institutes in the world.​ In 2018, TIME Magazine nominated Dr. Longo to be among the top 50 most influential people in health. Developed by Dr. Longo at The Longevity Institute, the Prolon 5 Day Fast is a patented Nutrition program backed by 20 years and £25 million in research and development Inspired by Nobel-winning science – but more on that later. First – why fast in the first place?

Why Fast?

Recent studies have shown that fasting can normalise elevated biomarkers for type 2 diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and inflammation. There is also evidence that it can prolong lifespan and even turn back the clock in terms of health (reports also suggest that those who fast look younger too!). It also has the potential to improve gut health and reduce anxiety. Fasting mimicking diets such as Prolon, has been shown to offer the same benefits. And Prolon in particular is backed by 20 years of extensive preclinical and clinical studies.

So how does it work?

Periodic fasting triggers the cells in our body to go into a state known as autophagy – where cells rejuvenate pathways and clean themselves out and protect themselves from becoming damaged. Simply put – autophagy is your body’s way of naturally cleaning out old unwanted cells and replacing them with healthy new ones – something that can’t take place if the body is overloaded with other signals such as the instruction to digest and extract energy. Autophagy is so important to health and longevity that research in the subject was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine. What Dr Longo found was that the Prolon Fasting Mimicking Technology could trigger and sustain autophagy during the fast, whilst still providing essential nutrients. In other words, it activates the body’s powerful cell rejuvenating system to encourage healthy ageing and reduces hunger during fasting at the same time.

Diary of a Faster, Sadie Reid tries a 5-day Fast with Prolon

Day 1

Firstly – a shout out for the very minimal yet super easy-to-implement boxes that each of the day’s food comes in. These really do make life much easier. And I love that I do not have to think about what I am going to buy, prepare and cook for my meals today. Breakfast was a breeze – in fact I often don’t eat brekkie so this was a treat – a delicious nut bar with carefully selected ingredients. The soup at lunch actually tasted delicious – I say ‘actually’ as I have tried a lot of these types of replacement meals and this is by far the best. Before I commenced the fast, Prolon put me in touch with their in house Nutritionist, Donald Gordon, who was a font of nutritional knowledge and even advised me as to when I should fast. Having never fasted before, even though I have been interested in them, I consider myself a novice and Donald explained to me how important it is not to fast at certain points of my menstrual cycle and he pointed me in the direction of my new obsession – Mindy Pelz. Mindy suggests only fasting for day 1-12 of your cycle or days 14-21 (presuming you have a 28 day (ish) cycle. Pelz explains “Generally, both sexes have a hormone called Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GRH). This regulates the activities of our reproductive organs. In women, GRH’s regulation functions are coordinated – they decide the cycles and schedules of women’s ovulation” she goes on to say “GRH needs insulin and glucose to fuel the process and the problem is that fasting depletes the body’s insulin and glucose reserves” and thereby affecting your natural hormonal cycle that you don’t want to mess with.  I was so pleased that Donald provided me with this information and immediately scheduled the fast for the best possible time. 

Day 2

Woke up feeling good – not hungry and managed an hour-long walk. Donald also explained how springtime is a perfect time to fast as there is a very real feeling of shedding the old and in with the new. Day 2 is all about ketosis – a metabolic state that occurs when your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose. Now this is probably a perfect time for me to explain that I am not fasting for weight loss – I am super interested in the longevity research that surrounds fasting and cannot wait for Day 3 as that is when autophagy kicks in but more on that below. One observation is that I am drinking so much more water. I now realise that I often snack when I am in fact thirsty not hungry! 

Day 3+4

I have been really excited about these days as this is when autophagy kicks in – the whole reason I am keen to do this fast (although the better skin I am also noticing is not going amiss!).  Autophagy is a process in which the body cleans itself of tired, old cell parts and proteins, to make way for new, healthy ones. And before you dismiss autophagy as another weird health claim, please know that Autophagy is so important to health and longevity that research in the subject was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine. This fast from ProLon supports the body’s natural processes of intracellular clean-up and cell renewal. These days were the hardest in terms of me missing food, however it was now that my mental fog began to clear and I actually felt like I had more energy than the first two days – I am sure there is a scientific reason for that! 

Day 5

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to reach Day 5. It has been hard at times to go so long without eating all the usual foods I am used to and my main issue was not burying my head in the snack drawer or finishing the children’s meals at first but I soon learned to like the simplicity of not having to cook ever and there were enough snacks that kept me going throughout the programme without me feeling like I was seriously depriving myself of food. I only wish that I was able to do my bloods and actually see inside my body because although I certainly feel great and my skin looks great too, I would love to know more about things like my IGF markers – a marker that is associated with ageing and increased cancer risk in mid-aged adults and in Prolon trials was seen to be reduced by 13%! 

The Verdict

Yes it is hard but it did feel worth it. I am fascinated by autophagy so will absolutely be doing this again. Prolon recommends for best results that the 5 day is repeated every month for 3 months and then quarterly so in the interim I will give their one-off 24-hour fast boxes a go to keep my body feeling happy and healthy.

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