Cycles of a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) may reduce insulin resistance, liver fat, immune system aging, and biological aging, according to new research conducted at the University of Southern California (USC), US.

The FMD, developed by Valter Longo, professor of gerontology and biological sciences at USC, is a five-day diet high in unsaturated fat and low in calories, protein and carbohydrates. It is designed to mimic water-only fasts while ensuring the body receives essential nutrients and making it easier to stick to than water-fasting.

“This is the first study to show that a food-based intervention that does not require chronic dietary or other lifestyle changes can make people biologically younger, based on both changes in risk factors for aging and disease and on another validated method we developed to assess biological age,” says Longo.

Lower insulin resistance and fat

The randomized clinical trial performed and published in Nature Communications finds that FMD may reduce insulin resistance along other pre-diabetes markers, lower hepatic fat and increase lymphoid to myeloid ratio (an indicator of immune system age).

The trial included 100 participants aged between 18 and 70 who were separated into two groups, including people of comparable age, sex, race and body weight, with the first group being asked to continue their normal diet and the second to implement FMD.

The FMD included plant-based soups, energy bars, chips, tea and supplements, ensuring optimal intake of minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids. After three months, 43 of the 48 participants in the first group were instructed to switch to an FMD, and those in the second group went back to their regular diet. At the end, both groups had completed three cycles of the fasting FMD and the outcomes were compared using a sensitivity analysis.

The trial further finds that FMDs are associated with a 2.5-year decrease in median biological age, regardless of weight loss. These results were confirmed in a second nearly identical clinical study. The three cycles of dieting had comparable effects in both groups. However, the second group experienced a greater reduction in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol than the first group, and the second group further decreased their absolute lean body mass, which was not observed in the first.

Similarly, a study conducted in China in 2022 suggested that intermittent fasting may have positive effects and potentially even reverse type 2 diabetes.

Additional benefits

Magnetic resonance imaging further revealed a decrease in abdominal and liver fat in the second group. Previous studies on mice reveal that periodic cycles of FMD can protect “normal cells” and kill damaged cells, such as cancer and autoimmune cells. This may reduce inflammation and promote multi-system regeneration and longevity.

In humans, FMD has been shown to lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other age-related health concerns. Fasting was shown to fascinate these effects at a molecular level in a study conducted last year on the effects of a restricted eating window.

“Although many doctors are already recommending the FMD in the US and Europe, these findings should encourage many more healthcare professionals to recommend FMD cycles to patients with higher than desired levels of disease risk factors as well as to the general population,” Longo concludes. A recent review of studies on fasting diets conducted in Canada revealed that there is a broad spectrum of varying diets of this kind with similarly diverse health benefits.

By Milana NIkolova

Source: NutritionInsight

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