Fasting Diet May Aid Aging

Intermittent fasting has been a topic of debate for several years. Everyone agrees that some diets, like the Mediterranean, are helpful. Everyone agrees that crash diets are unhealthy. But people go back and forth on the helpfulness of intermittent fasting.

Studies have shown intermittent fasting can benefit blood sugar, even if it doesn’t boost weight loss. Other studies have shown it may improve blood pressure.

A new fast-mimicking diet (FMD) is making headlines as a study found it lowered people’s biological age by two and a half years. The diet is five days long. It’s rich in unsaturated fats but low in calories, protein and carbs. It mimics a water-only fast while still meeting the body’s nutrient needs. The people in the study were being observed by doctors. We cannot recommend this radical diet without consulting your doctor first.  

The study went on for four months with people going through a cycle. Participants would follow the five-day FMD and then eat a Mediterranean diet for 25 days. The FMD lowered blood sugar concerns, reduced liver fat, slowed immune system aging and lowered the risk of age-related illnesses and biological age.

Our study also lends more support to the FMD’s potential as a short-term, periodic, achievable dietary intervention that can help people lessen their disease risk and improve their health without extensive lifestyle changes,” said first study author Sebastian Brandhorst.

Because of how radical it is — and how short it is — it’s easy to dismiss this as a fad or crash diet. However, looking past the immediate red flags, it seems that it’s more of a medical intervention. This isn’t a diet anyone should be trying alone for weight loss. It is something to discuss with a doctor.

Previous research from the same group found that FMD cycles were linked to promoting stem cell regeneration, easing chemotherapy side effects and lowering the symptoms of dementia in mice. It’s not about weight loss but using diet as medicine.

USC Leonard Davis School Prof. Valter Longo, the new study’s senior author, said he hoped “that these studies will convince doctors to add the FMD to their toolkit for disease prevention and possibly treatment.”

The FMD does exactly what it is named after- mimics fasting,” said Dr. Nicole Avena, nutrition consultant and assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “This diet is beneficial to balancing blood sugar, improving insulin resistance and reducing overall inflammation throughout the body. By giving your body time to rest, rather than digest, it allows us to heal inflammation and put energy towards more pressing internal ‘issues.’”

The radical nature of the diet means it’s not for everyone. It’s not considered safe during pregnancy. People with chronic health issues and older people might not be good candidates to try it. However, it could be very beneficial for others.

Banner image: Kim Cruickshanks via Unsplash

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