Fauja Singh completed this year’s London Marathon in seven hours and forty-nine minutes. By no means a winning time, yet Fauja Singh, affectionately dubbed the “turbaned tornado” is 101 years old. He took up long distance running after moving to the UK from his native India; post his wife’s death in 1992.
He attributes his long and healthy life to healthy eating habits. Like most Punjabis he is a strict vegetarian, existing on a diet of lentils, vegetables flavored with ginger, brown bread, fruit and natural yoghurt. It’s not so much what he eats, but how much! He restricts himself to small, child-sized portions which are reflected in his weight. He is 173 centimeters tall and yet weighs only 53 kilos.
According to Russian born Dr. Arcady Economo there is nothing new here. Scientists have known for 80 years that a calorie restricted food intake can prolong life. Dr. Clive McCay claimed during the 1930s that such diets could extend life expectancy by up to 50%. Fauja Singh’s success in covering the 42 kilometer London Marathon course attests to these claims.
Koh Samui is home to approximately 20 so called “detox resorts”. They range from the good to the bad and indifferent. They all promote fasting and inner cleansing. People flock from across the globe to these establishments. Some come to embrace better health practices, but most come to lose weight. Dr. Economo runs a group of similar facilities in Hungary and Croatia; his emphasis is on the fasting component of the program. In Budapest and elsewhere his nutritional experts design specific diets for his clients. They are expected to follow these eating programs when they return home after completing their one or two week detox plan. The most popular of these divides the year into four, thirteen week blocks. Each chunk comprises one fasting week, with a near zero calorific intake, one recovery week when food is gradually introduced where consumption is limited to 5,200 kilo calories and eleven ordinary weeks. The normal weeks comprise six feeding days calculated at 2,000 calories per day. The seventh day is a fasting day with 0 calories permitted. This formula yields 72 fasting days in the year; it averages out at a usual food input of 1,500 calories per day. It appears Fauja Singh is obtaining the same result simply by eating less on an ongoing basis.
Professor Valter Longo of the University of Southern California’s Longevity Institute explains the connection between fasting and increased life span is the hormone “Insulin Growth Factor-1”. This hormone causes children to develop, but when they reach adulthood it stresses the body and appears to cause aging. His evidence is the genetically engineered Laron mouse, which does not produce IGF-1. These creatures can live up to five years much longer than the 2 year life expectancy of a normal mouse. They seem to be immune to cancer and heart disease, and when they die it’s because the heart just stops.
Longo goes on to explain that fasting lowers IGF-1 levels, and when we stop eating the body switches from growth to repair mode when several DNA healing genes switch-on. Dr. Economo feels that eating cessation also reduces damaging free radical levels. The result is a reduction in blood pressure, a decrease in high blood sugar levels, which are in themselves a prelude to diabetes and metabolic levels decrease as the body slow down to conserve its energy resources.
Fasting, especially for the first timer can be difficult. Toxins which are a natural bi-product of today’s lifestyle release and these can cause headaches, dizziness and an general feeling of unwellness, but stick with it and experience extraordinary results. Both Professor Longo and Dr. Economo suggest a prolonged fast is best accomplished under supervision and probably in a quality detox resort, such as Dr. Economo’s European clinics or in one or two of the recommended facilities in Koh Samui. That’s it for this week. Catch you again next week; if you would like advice and recommendations about fasting and detoxing make contact via the website.