It sounds so good to be true — you just eat a special five-day diet once every few months, and you lose weight while reducing risks for major, life-threatening diseases.
But that’s what researchers at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology found. The study was part of a phase II trial and was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Seventy-one adults experienced these benefits when they were put on a low-calorie “fasting-mimicking” diet. They went through three cycles of this diet.
Health Benefits and Weight Loss
The researchers found that the diet reduced cardiovascular risk factors, signs of inflammation as well as other risks for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other age-related diseases.
On top of that, the participants lost weight, both in total body fat and trunk fat, but did not lose muscle mass.
To sum it up, the researchers said, “This study provides evidence that people can experience significant health benefits through a periodic, fasting-mimicking diet that is designed to act on the aging process.”
Previous studies have already shown that a fasting-type diet provided health benefits in mice. This study was the first clinical trial to show that this type of “fast-mimicking” diet is feasible, effective and safe for humans.
One hundred participants were put on the trial study from April 2013 to July 2015. Their ages ranged from 20 to 70. They were all generally healthy and were divided into two groups.
The control group ate normally for three months. The other group were put on the “fast-mimicking” special diet for three months.
The special diet was designed to mimic the results of a water-only fast. The participants consumed 750 and 1,100 calories per day. The meals for the fasting-mimicking diet contained precise proportions of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
After three months, the control group was also put on the special diet.
In all, the participants lost on the average about 6 pounds after the 3-month diet. Their waistlines also shrank by 1 to 2 inches. Their systolic and diastolic blood pressure dropped by 4.5 mmHG and 3.1 mmHg, respectively (their blood pressure was in the normal range to begin with).
Also, the control group that was moved to the special diet after three months also experienced the same results.
Results Stuck After Diet Stopped
And to top everything off, the researchers found that when the participants returned to their normal diet, they retained the healthy results of the “fasting-mimicking” diet. After three months, they invited the participants back. The research team found that the beneficial effects — from weight loss, smaller waistlines and lower glucose, blood pressure and IGF-1 levels — were sustained.
This sounds great, so what’s the next step? The researchers plan on moving to a FDA phase III clinical trial.
What does this mean for you? Well, numerous studies have already show the benefits of fasting. You can just try to eat a healthy, low-calorie “fasting-mimicking” diet for 5 days every couple of months or so.
Keep tuned in to see what more results these researchers will have in the future.
Min Wei, Sebastian Brandhorst, Mahshid Shelehchi, Hamed Mirzaei, Chia Wei Cheng, Julia Budniak, Susan Groshen, Wendy J. Mack, Esra Guen, Stefano Di Biase, Pinchas Cohen, Todd E. Morgan, Tanya Dorff, Kurt Hong, Andreas Michalsen, Alessandro Laviano, Valter D. Longo. Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Science Translational Medicine, 2017; 9 (377): http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aai8700