Study finds 'fasting-mimicking' diet has major health benefits

Scientists have found a five-day fasting-mimicking diet once every few months can have significant health benefits.
By Amy Wallace   |   Feb. 16, 2017 at 11:20 AM
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Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology showed a periodic fasting diet can reduce cardiovascular risk factors, among other health benefits.

The study consisted of 100 adults ages 20 to 70 who were placed on three cycles of a low-calorie, fasting-mimicking diet from April 2013 to July 2015.

Participants were separated into two groups, a control group eating a normal diet and a group placed on the three-month cycle of fasting-mimicking diet. The fasting-mimicking diet had participants eat food supplied by L-Nutra designed to imitate a water-only fast consisting of 750 to 1,100 calories a day during the five-day fasting period each month.

Results showed a reduction of cardiovascular risk factors including blood pressure, signs of inflammation, fasting glucose and reduced levels of the metabolism hormone IGF-1 in 71 of the trial participants, who also lost weight and inches around their waist, reducing their risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other diseases.

"This study provides evidence that people can experience significant health benefits through a periodic, fasting-mimicking diet that is designed to act on the aging process," Valter Longo, director of the USC Longevity Institute, professor of biological sciences for USC Davis and Dornsife and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "Prior studies have indicated a range of health benefits in mice, but this is the first randomized clinical trial with enough participants to demonstrate that the diet is feasible, effective and safe for humans. Larger FDA studies are necessary to confirm its effects on disease prevention and treatment."

Results showed that participants on the fasting-mimicking diet lost an average of 6 pounds and 1 to 2 inches round their waist. Their systolic blood pressure dropped by 4.5 mmHg, their diastolic blood pressure dropped by 3.1 mmHg and their IGF-1 levels dropped between 21.7 ng/ml and 46.2 ng/ml.

"After the first group completed their three months on the fasting diet, we moved over participants in the control group to see if they also would experience similar results," Longo said. "We saw similar outcomes, which provides further evidence that a fasting-mimicking diet has effects on many metabolic and disease markers. Our mouse studies using a similar fasting-mimicking diet indicate that these beneficial effects are caused by multi-system regeneration and rejuvenation in the body at the cellular and organ levels. Our participants retained those effects, even when they returned to their normal daily eating habits."

The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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