Rejoice: A gentler form of intermittent fasting provides the same life-lengthening effects as more frequent, intensive fasting. A study of people who fast just once a month showed notably higher survival rates.
Researchers led by Benjamin Horne, Ph.D., looked at 2,000 cardiac catheterization patients at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, many of whom were practicing Mormons who fast for approximately 24 hours on the first Sunday of every month. Even when controlling for other healthy behaviors, the fasters lived notably longer over a 4.5-year period.
This is relevant to you because the more faddish intermittent fasting diets include multiple fasts a week, which are hard. The researchers hypothesize that perhaps consistent fasting just once a month over a long period conditions the body to activate the beneficial aspects of fasting more quickly, so that rather than needing the typical 12 hours for the positive effects to kick in, the body activates the positive benefits daily during normal overnight fasting.
It is unclear which specific effects of intermittent fasting might impact longevity, but occasional fasting is known to have many positive effects on heart health, including lowering sodium and bicarbonate levels while activating ketosis and autophagy, as well as changing hemoglobin, red blood cell, and human growth hormone levels. More research is needed—this study found correlation, not causation—though all signs point to the wisdom of the numerous spiritual practices that have periodically fasted for millennia.