Fasting can help us live longer healthier lives, but it’s also difficult and can be dangerous.
In a recent study published in the journal of Cell Metabolism, funded by the National Institute of Aging, scientists discovered that a five-day, once-a-month diet that mimics fasting is safe, improved brain function, and reduced risk factors for aging, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The research was conducted on yeast, mice and in people. The study found that yeast fed a nutrient rich medium and then only water lived longer. The mice that were fed a 4 day diet that mimicked fasting lived longer and had less fat, few cancers and improved cognitive function.
The participants in the study followed the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) for five days a month, then ate and exercised as they normally would for the rest of the month. This was done for three months. During the 5 days of the FMD they consumed 34% and 54% of their normal caloric intake which was made of up of at least 9%–10% proteins, 34%–47% carbohydrates, and 44%–56% fat. Participants consumed vegetable-based soups, energy bars, energy drinks, chip snacks, chamomile tea, and a vegetable supplement formula tablet. The diet provided about 1,090 calories on the first day and about 725 calories on Days 2 through 5.
After three months, researchers found that the participants were at a decreased risk of aging, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. They cut belly fat, improved learning and memory skills, and increased the number of stem cells which are important because they help repair and regenerate damaged tissue.
According to researcher Valter D. Longo of the University of Southern California, the idea behind fasting is to “reboot” a person’s body by clearing out damaged cells and regenerating new ones. “Everything is getting a little younger and it goes back to working much better,” Longo said. So the same benefits of fasting can be achieved without resorting to the extreme measures of fasting. Losing weight is one of the side effects, but the real benefit is better health in old age.