In a new USC study on the health effects of a low-calorie diet that mimics fasting in the body, researchers found regular five-day cycles of the diet in mice seemed to counteract the detrimental effects of their usual high-fat, high-calorie diet. The study, published today in Nature Metabolism, analyzed the diet, health and lifespan of three different groups of mice over two years. The findings point to the potential of using a fasting-mimicking diet as “medicine,” according to the researchers. A fasting-mimicking diet, or FMD, is a low-calorie diet that “tricks” the body into a fasting state.
One group of mice ate a high-calorie, high-fat diet (with 60% of their calories from fat) and became unhealthy and overweight. A second group of mice ate the same poor diet as the first one for approximately 4 weeks, followed by five days where they were fed an FMD and two days of a normal, healthy diet. Study authors say those brief diet interventions were sufficient for that second group to return to normal levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and weight. Notably, the mice who ate the fasting-mimicking diet for five days out of each month lived as long as a third group of mice that was consistently fed a healthy diet. In humans, obesity caused by a high-fat, high calorie diet is a major risk factor for metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.