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Although most of the great religions advocate fasting (devout Muslims finish fasting for Ramadan this weekend), I have always been sceptical about the medical benefits and followed the standard advice, namely “never skip a meal and never crash-diet”.
The reasoning behind this is that people who skip meals tend to eat high-fat snacks when they get hungry, while those who crash-diet lose weight fast but what they lose is mainly water, with some fat and muscle thrown in. At this year’s event there were more than 7,000 runners aged over 50, and seven who were over 80.
Fortunately, there is an alternative that seems to offer many of the same benefits — intermittent fasting.
He also eats much the same thing every day — he lives mainly on lentils, vegetables garnished with ginger, brown bread, fruit and yogurt — and his portions are tiny (no carb-loading for Fauja). He is 5ft 8in tall and weighs just 53kg — about 8 stone.
He attributes his success to his eating habits: “My life is protected because I control my eating.” Fauja is right to believe that controlled eating is the way to a longer and healthier life.
One scientist who has been studying fasting for many years is Professor Valter Longo, the director of the University of Southern California’s Longevity Institute.
When I visited him for BBC Two’s Horizon, he showed me a remarkable little mouse that had been genetically engineered to live longer.
Like his genetically engineered relatives, he should live to the equivalent of 120, maybe even 180.