In a recent study, USC researchers found a low-calorie, “fasting-mimicking” diet could help risks of major diseases.
The diet could reduce blood pressure and signs of inflammation and improve metabolic functions.
It also shrank waistlines and resulted in weight loss, both in total body fat and trunk fat, but not in muscle mass.
The scientists suggest the diet could cut risks of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other age-related diseases.
In the current study, 100 people participated in the trial from April 2013 to July 2015. The participants, ages 20 to 70 and all generally healthy, were divided into two groups.
Participants in the first group, the control group, were asked to continue their normal eating habits for three months.
People in the second group were placed on a three-month test of the fasting-mimicking diet.
Those people were required to eat food products supplied by the nutrition company L-Nutra during the fasting periods of five days each month.
The diet was designed to mimic the results of a water-only fast. It allowed participants to consume between 750 and 1,100 calories per day.
The meals for the fast-mimicking diet contained precise proportions of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
After three months, participants in the control group were moved onto the special diet.
The team found that participants on the fasting-mimicking diet lost an average of about 6 pounds. Their waistlines shrank by 1-2 inches.
In addition, the people’s systolic blood pressure, which was in the normal range when the study began, dropped by 4.5 mmHG, while their diastolic blood pressure dropped by 3.1 mmHg.
Also, their metabolic functions reached a range associated with lower cancer risk.
The team also found that participants who were considered at risk of chronic diseases (high cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar levels) made significant progress toward better health.
The researchers suggest that people can experience significant health benefits through a periodic, fasting-mimicking diet that is designed to act on the aging process.
These beneficial effects are caused by multi-system regeneration and rejuvenation in the body at the cellular and organ levels (based on their mouse experiments)
Fasting seems to be the most beneficial for patients who have the great risk factors for disease, such as those who have high blood pressure or pre-diabetes or who are obese
The team also suggests that larger FDA studies are necessary to confirm its effects on disease prevention and treatment in the near future.
Valter Longo, director of the USC Longevity Institute, led the study.
The study is published in Science Translational Medicine.
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