Fasting-Like Diet Linked to Reduced Biological Age

A fasting-like diet may cut the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other age-related conditions, according to a new study. However, this eating pattern may be difficult to follow in the long term.

The fasting mimicking diet (FMD) is a five-day diet high in unsaturated fats and low in overall calories, protein, and carbohydrates. It is designed to mimic the effects of water fasting while providing necessary nutrients.

The diet, created by USC Leonard Davis School Professor Valter Longo, is much easier to complete than a water-only fast.

Previous research has suggested that periodic FMD cycles can promote stem cell regeneration, lessen chemotherapy side effects, and reduce the signs of dementia in mice.

A new study by Longo, which appears in Nature Communications, shows that FMD may reduce the risk of aging-related conditions.

“This study shows for the first time evidence for biological age reduction from two different clinical trials, accompanied by evidence of rejuvenation of metabolic and immune function,” Longo said in a statement.

Reduced risk of metabolic syndrome

The study examined the fasting mimicking diet’s effects in 100 men and women between 18 and 70.

The participants were randomized either to the FMD diet consisting of plant-based soups, energy bars, energy drinks, chip snacks, and tea or a normal or Mediterranean-style diet.

Those randomized to the fasting-mimicking diet underwent three to four monthly cycles, adhering to the diet for five days, followed by a normal diet for 25 days.

A blood sample analysis showed that the patients following FMD had lower diabetes risk factors, including less insulin resistance and lower HbA1c results.

They also saw a decrease in abdominal fat and fat within the liver, the improvements associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome.

Moreover, the patients on the FMD experienced an increase in the lymphoid-to-myeloid ratio, which indicates a more youthful immune system.

They also had an average reduction of 2.5 years in their biological age, a measure of how well one’s cells and tissues are functioning, as opposed to chronological age. However, only 16 of 52 participants on FMD saw their biological age decrease.

Limitations of the study include a small number of participants. As they shared advantageous social, economic, behavioral, and health characteristics, the results may not be generalized to the population as a whole. This means that the long-term effects of FMD on biological age may have been overestimated.

The study did not take into account the bias that may arise as a result of enthusiastic volunteers. For instance, it can be difficult for some people to undergo three yearly FMD cycles for decades.

Although the FMD shows promise in reducing the risk of multiple chronic conditions, more research is needed on the long-term effects of the fasting-mimicking diet.

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