A 5-day fasting diet can safely reduce the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and several other health conditions, says a study published in Science Translational Medicine.
A group of 100 adults enlisted their participation for the study: they were divided into two groups, one having to adhere to a special, low-calorie diet that is tantamount to fasting, and the other acting as the control, sticking to their normal eating habits for a period of 3 months. The two batches were compared by a team of researchers from the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.
The effects of this regimen were analysed, and the findings show a decrease in cardiovascular risk factors pertaining to blood pressure, inflammation, fasting glucose level, and levels of a hormone known as IGF-1 which affects metabolism. The “fasting-mimicking” diet also appears to have contributed to weight loss caused by a reduction in total body fat and trunk fat, and not in muscle mass. The risks of heart disease, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as of other age-related diseases appear to have, thus, been lowered through this diet.
The special diet, lasting for 5 days every month, was composed of food items provided by nutrition company L-Nutra. It was meant to mimic water-only fasts, and limited daily calorie intake between 750 and 1,100. The proportions of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates were precisely defined. After the three-month period, the control group switched to the special diet as well.
The researchers observed that those initially on the fasting-mimicking diet (the first group) lost around 3 kilograms, and their waistlines decreased by 2 to 5 centimetres. Their systolic blood pressure, which was within the normal range at the start of the experiment, decreased by 4.5 mmHG, while their diastolic BP dropped by 3.1 mmHg. Their IGF-1 levels went down to a range associated with a lower risk of developing cancer (21.7 ng/mL – 46.2 ng/mL).
Furthermore, participants of the second group showed similar effects when they were moved to the fasting diet. These effects also did not vanish when the participants went back to their normal routine.
The researchers say that the apparent benefits of this diet were more pronounced for those who were already at risk of the diseases.
“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,” explains researcher Valter Longo.
While the study demonstrates that the diet in question is both effective and safe for humans, Longo adds that more studies have to be conducted, on a larger scale, to confirm the results of this study.