A study published by Science Translational Medicine, demonstrated that the “Fasting-Mimicking” diet reduces risk factors for aging and age-related diseases.
With rising obesity levels, endless slew of fad diets and exercise regimens, the question of how to best approach and manage a healthy diet appears to remain unanswered.
According to the CDC, over one-third of US adults are obese, and while childhood obesity appears to have leveled off at 17%, obesity-related conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain forms of cancer remain some of the leading causes of preventable death. Fad diets that offer “quick fixes” and drastically lowered caloric intake over a short period of time can make losing and keeping off weight difficult and, in some cases, risky.
Surprising results emerging from two studies suggest that calorie restriction (CR) and fasting-mimicking diets (FMD) have the potential to not only lower weight and body fat, but result in various health benefits and even increased longevity.
In a study published by Science Translational Medicine, the findings of a University of Southern California research team demonstrated that a “fasting-mimicking” diet performed just five times a month for three months reduced risk factors for aging and age-related diseases. In both study arms of 100 randomized participants, the effects of a FMD - characterized by low calories, sugars, and proteins but high unsaturated fats - were largely beneficial. Those subjects who completed three FMD cycles showed reduced body weight and total body fat as well as lowered blood pressure and decreased insulin-like growth factor 1, without any serious adverse side effects. After three months of unrestricted diet, control subjects were put on the FMD program. Results from both study arms showed that subjects at risk for disease experienced greater benefits related to body mass index (BMI,) blood pressure, fasting glucose, IGF-1, triglycerides, total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and C-reactive protein, more so than subjects who were not already at risk.
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the National Institute on Aging, a similar study was performed on rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) placed on a calorie restriction (CR) diet and produced significant health benefits in its subjects. The study, published in Nature Communications, found that CR is highly effective in delaying the impact of aging in nonhuman primates; the reduced body weight and body fat related to reduced food consumption in CR rhesus monkeys was correlated with increased survival. One old-onset CR male from the group is now 43, a longevity record for this species, and six of the 20 original male monkeys have lived past 40 years of age. An old-onset CR female has also surpassed lifespan estimates, now aged 38; eleven years older than the median survival estimates for old-onset control females. Because the rhesus monkey genome shares approximately 93% sequence identity with the human genome, their genetic makeup is similar to that of human subjects. Similar lifespan measurement, development, and aging effects such as hair loss, loss of muscle tone and vigor, redistribution of body fat, and increased manifestation of diseases and disorders make the results of this study largely translatable to human health and aging.
*Self-Reported Obesity Among U.S. Adults - Prevalence estimates reflect BRFSS methodological changes started in 2011. These estimates should not be compared to prevalence estimates before 2011.
While the results of this research neither suggests nor argues that reduced calorie or fasting-mimicking diets will lead to a longer life, it does present the possibility of increased health benefits in individuals at-risk for disease as well as enhanced healthy aging. Cycles of five-day FMD offer a safe, practical, and feasible solution to the reduction of risks associated with aging and age-related diseases linked to obesity, and further research on CR and FMD may be the key to a lasting health solution.
Research provided by: University of South Carolina and University of Wisconsin-Madison
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