Scientists from the University of Southern California have found that a low-calorie, “fasting-mimicking” diet can reduce the risks of various major health problems, including aging, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Details of the Study
Traditional low-calorie diets have been shown to promote healthy aging in past research, but these diets are challenging for most people to maintain long-term.
Furthermore, they can lead to health problems such as constipation, fatigue, diarrhea, and nausea.
The researchers in this study evaluated the health benefits of a fasting-mimicking diet that is low in calories, sugars, and proteins, but high in unsaturated fats.
This diet aims to simulate the state of fasting while still providing essential nutrients and calories.
The approach seeks to identify a “sweet spot” where the benefits of fasting can be achieved without activating pathways that block these benefits.
The diet mimics the 5:2 fasting diet, which consists of two days of consuming around 25% of regular caloric intake followed by five days of normal eating. This equates to approximately 500-600 calories on fasting days.
The team compared the effects of three months on an unrestricted diet to three months on a fast-mimicking diet followed for five consecutive days per month.
They found that the fasting-mimicking diet reduced body weight and total body fat while also lowering blood pressure and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Importantly, no serious adverse effects were reported.
After three months, improvements in body mass index, blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, triglycerides, total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, ‘bad’) cholesterol, and C-reactive protein were found in the diet group.
C-reactive protein is a protein produced and secreted by the liver, often serving as an early indicator of inflammation or infection in the body.
Implications and Future Directions
The researchers concluded that the cycles of a five-day fast-mimicking diet are safe, feasible, and effective in reducing risks for aging and age-related diseases.
However, they also suggest that larger studies are necessary to determine the benefits of the diet for people with diagnosed diseases.
Further research should also identify how the diet can benefit people with specific risk factors, such as obesity or high blood pressure.
The study, conducted by Valter D Longo et al, is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
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