How Intermittent Fasting Supports Dogs’ Health & Longevity

Cramming all your dog’s calories into a set period of time during the day does amazing things for their physiology. Aside from maintaining “cellular youth” and slowing aging, research has shown that the practice promotes greater energy, increases fat burning, and decreases risk of developing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, all because fasting activates autophagy

Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and former chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging, is a prolific researcher in this area. He has collaborated with Panda on the research and published extensively in medical literature. He is particularly interested in how fasting can improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.

Mattson has conducted studies in which he subjected animals to alternative-day fasting, with a 10 to 25% calorie-restricted diet on the in-between days. According to him, “If you repeat that when animals are young, they live 30% longer.” Read that sentence again. By changing when animals eat, we can extend their life span—by a lot! It’s not just more time; it’s more time with better health and less disease. Mattson even found the animals’ nerve cells were more resistant to degeneration when following this protocol. And when he performed similar studies in women over the course of several weeks, he found that they lost more body fat, retained more lean muscle mass, and had improved glucose regulation. 

Ironically, one of the mechanisms that triggers these biological reactions is not just autophagy but stress. During the fasting period, cells are under a mild stress (a healthy, “good” kind of stress) and they respond to that stress by enhancing their ability to cope with it and, perhaps, to resist disease. Other studies have confirmed these findings. Fasting done correctly reduces blood pressure, improves insulin sensitivity, boosts kidney function, enhances brain function, regenerates the immune system, and increases resistance to diseases in mammals across the board. Fasting is natural to a dog’s physiology as well, and they benefit in the same fashion.

Adapted from the book THE FOREVER DOG by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker. Copyright © 2021 by Rodney Habib and Karen Shaw Becker. Published by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

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