We’ve written before about how fasting is one of the most effective ways to add years to your life (see Issue #8). In fact, it’s been called the only proven method of life extension.
The trouble is, doing without food is tough.
Now, a growing body of research shows you may be able to reap the benefits without starving yourself. there’s a diet that appears to provide just about everything a dieter could dream of – a smaller waist, less body fat and longer life expectancy along with a brain that works better.
I just heard about this recently at a massive anti-aging conference. Keep reading to get the scoop. . .
The diet is called the fasting mimicking diet, or FMD for short. It consists of periodically cutting calories by a huge amount in a way that makes the body believe you are fasting. (I’ll explain more about that in a moment.)
The inventor of the diet is Prof. Valter Longo, who directs the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He’s a biogerontologist and cell biologist. His research demonstrates that one of the ways in which this regimen may help the body is by increasing the number of stem cells available to regenerate aging organs – including the brain.1
That regeneration, his study indicates, revs up your memory and learning abilities.
Big Effects of Not-Quite Fasting
Prof. Longo’s lab tests of this diet show that starting it when you are middle-aged has the potential to
- Reduce the chances of cancer
- Strengthen the ability of the immune system to fight disease
- Limit inflammation that leads to conditions like rheumatoid arthritis
- Keep bones stronger in old age
- Generally improve brain function
In a three-month test of the diet on people, Prof. Longo had folks do five-day periods of the FMD once a month. Tests of their blood at the end of the research showed drops in factors linked to heart disease, cancer, aging and diabetes.
And Prof. Longo reported no harmful side effects.
“Strict fasting is hard for people to stick to, and it can also be dangerous, so we developed a complex diet (the FMD) that triggers the same effects in the body,’ says Prof. Longo. “I’ve personally tried both, and the fasting mimicking diet is a lot easier and also a lot safer.”
The FMD cuts the amount of food you eat during each five-day semi-fasting period so that your calorie counts during those days drops by 46 to 66 percent. The meals while you’re on the FMD are designed to contain specific proportions of fat, carbohydrates, proteins and micronutrients. Prof. Longo says the decrease in food and the proportions of nutrients he has configured decrease the body’s production of a hormone called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1).
Decreases in IGF-1 are beneficial because this hormone may increase your chances of cancer as you age even though when you’re younger you need it to spur growth.
Prof. Longo’s study results also show that the diet increases a hormone called IGFBP which binds up and neutralizes IGF-1.
The people in his study also experienced reductions in blood sugar and loss of body fat around their stomachs. Inflammation is moderated, too. Their blood tests revealed less C-reactive protein – a well-known marker of inflammation.
Another benefit – all of this occurred without the loss of bone density or muscle mass.
Here’s What You Eat
The first day of the five-day FMD that Prof. Longo recommends basically consists of 500 calories from vegetables (such as broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, squash, mushrooms, and so forth) and 500 calories from healthy fats (such as olive oil and nuts).
Days two to five each have 400 calories from vegetables and 400 calories from healthy fats.
After the five days, he recommends you have a transition day of mostly vegetables but which also can contain rice, bread, cereals and fruit before you go back to your normal diet. The transition day should minimize consumption of cheese, meat, pastries and daily products.
Prof. Longo delineates how often you should undertake these five-day mimicked fasts:
- Once a month if you are very overweight and have two or more risk factors for cancer, heart disease, diabetes or a neurodegenerative disease. (Risk factors include things like high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, high blood sugar, high levels of C-reactive protein, etc.)
- Once every two months if your weight is about average and you have two or more risk factors for cancer, heart disease, diabetes or a neurodegenerative disease.
- Once every three months if you are average weight with only one risk risk factor for cancer, heart disease, diabetes or a neurodegenerative disease.
- Once every fourth months if you are healthy, usually eat a normal diet but don’t exercise.
- Once every six months if you are healthy, have an ideal weight and exercise regularly.
Prof. Longo is involved with a company that sells packaged foods and supplements you can use to follow his diet. These packaged products include soup blends that incorporate the vegetables allowed during the FMD. They are available at https://prolonfmd.com/fasting-mimicking-diet/. He’s also written a book, The Longevity Diet, that details his research into this eating plan and offers information about how to follow the regimen.
He warns that if you have diabetes you should not fast or use FMD while receiving insulin or taking the drug metformin or similar pharmaceuticals. If you are extremely underweight, you should also not try this diet.