Five-day diet which mimics fasting slows down aging, increases life span, reduce risk of heart disease, cancer and boost the immune system.
New research led by USC's Valter Longo shows that periodically adopting a diet that mimics fasting (FMD) cut visceral belly fat and elevated the number of progenitor and stem cells in several organs of old mice-including the brain, where it boosted neural regeneration and improved learning and memory.
In a pilot human trial, three cycles of a similar diet given to 19 subjects once a month for five days decreased risk factors and biomarkers for aging, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer with no major adverse side effects, according to Longo.
The diet slashed the individual's caloric intake down to 34 to 54 percent of normal, with a specific composition of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and micronutrients.
It decreased amounts of the hormone IGF-I, which is required during development to grow, but it is a promoter of aging and has been linked to cancer susceptibility.
It also increased the amount of the hormone IGFBP-, and reduced biomarkers/risk factors linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including glucose, trunk fat and C-reactive protein without negatively affecting muscle and bone mass.
For 25 days a month, study participants went back to their regular eating habits-good or bad-once they finished the treatment. They were not asked to change their diet and still saw positive changes.
Despite its positive effects, Longo cautioned against water-only fasting and warned even about attempting the fasting mimicking diet without first consulting a doctor and seeking their supervision throughout the process.
He added that diabetic subjects should not undergo either fasting or fasting mimicking diets while receiving insulin, metformin or similar drugs. He also said that subjects with body mass index less than 18 should not undergo the FMD diet.
The study is published in Cell Metabolism.