It’s the new year. Many people are integrating new habits into their lives to help them reach their health and wellness goals. The rise in popularity of intermittent fasting as part of an overall wellness plan has people researching, Googling and seeking out information on fasting more than ever before.

As a healthcare provider, you probably field patient questions about fasting on the regular. A recent study gives even more support to the ancient art of fasting as a means of achieving improved health.

In a University of California, Irvine-led study, researchers found evidence that fasting affects circadian clocks in the liver and skeletal muscles, causing them to rewire their metabolism, which can ultimately lead to improved health and protection against aging-associated diseases.

What Kind of Clock?!

The circadian clock operates within the body and its organs as intrinsic time-keeping machinery to preserve homeostasis in response to the changing environment. And, while food is known to influence clocks in peripheral tissues, it was unclear, until now, how the lack of food influences clock function and ultimately affects the body.

"We discovered fasting influences the circadian clock and fasting-driven cellular responses, which together work to achieve fasting-specific temporal gene regulation," said lead author Paolo Sassone-Corsi, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Chemistry at UCI's School of Medicine. "Skeletal muscle, for example, appears to be twice as responsive to fasting as the liver."

The research for this study was conducted using mice, which were subjected to 24-hour periods of fasting. While fasting, researchers noticed a reduction in oxygen consumption (VO2), respiratory exchange ratio (RER), and energy expenditure in the mice, all of which were completely abolished by refeeding. These results parallel results observed in humans.

"The reorganization of gene regulation by fasting could prime the genome to a more permissive state to anticipate upcoming food intake and thereby drive a new rhythmic cycle of gene expression," said Dr. Sassone-Corsi.

In other words, fasting essentially reprograms a variety of cellular responses. So optimal fasting in a timed manner can ultimately benefit health and protect against aging-associated diseases.

This study opens new avenues of investigation that could ultimately lead to the development of nutritional strategies to improve health in humans.