Scientists from the University of Southern California found that a low-calorie, “fasting-mimicking” diet could help reduce the risks of significant health problems, including aging, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Previous research has found that a low-calorie diet can enhance healthy aging, but most people cannot adhere to such an extreme diet for a long time.
A low-calorie diet can also lead to health problems, such as fatigue, constipation, nausea, and diarrhea.
In the study, researchers tested the health benefits of a fasting-mimicking diet-low in calories, sugars, and protein but high in unsaturated fats.
They aimed to see if this diet could reduce the risks of aging and age-related diseases.
The fasting-mimicking diet is a specific meal plan formulated to simulate the fasting state while providing nutrients and calories.
It does this by finding a “sweet spot” in the body where the benefits of fasting still occur, and pathways that block the benefits of fasting are not activated.
This type of diet mimics a 5:2 fasting diet, where fasters eat about 25 percent of their regular caloric intake for two days and then eat normally for five days.
This means the dieter eats about 500-600 calories on the fasting days.
In the study, the team compared people who followed 3 months of an unrestricted diet to people who ate the fast-mimicking diet for 5 consecutive days per month for 3 months.
The team found that three fast-mimicking diet cycles reduced body weight and total body fat.
It also lowered blood pressure and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). No serious adverse effects were reported.
After 3 months, the team found that body mass index, blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, triglycerides, total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, ‘bad’) cholesterol, and C-reactive protein were improved in the diet group.
C-reactive protein is made by the liver and secreted into the blood. It is often the first evidence of inflammation or an infection in the body.
Based on the findings, the team concludes that the cycles of a 5-day fast-mimicking diet are safe, feasible, and effective in reducing risks for aging and age-related diseases.
But they also suggest that larger studies that test people with diagnosed diseases are needed to test the benefits of the diet.
In addition, how the diet can benefit people with specific risk factors, such as obesity or high blood pressure, needs to be found out.
The research is published in Science Translational Medicine and was conducted by Valter D Longo et al.
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