A five day diet which mimics fasting could slow down ageing, add years to life, boost the immune system and cut the risk of heart disease and cancer, scientists believe.
The plan which restricts calories to between one third and a half of normal intake has been developed by academics at the University of Southern California.
Last year the same team discovered that fasting can regenerate the entire immune system, bringing a host of long-term health benefits.
But now they have found that a calorie-restricted diet comprising of vegetable soups and chamomile tea has the same affect. And dieters only need to follow the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) for five days a month, eating what they like for the rest of the time.
“Strict fasting is hard for people to stick to, and it can also be dangerous, so we developed a complex diet that triggers the same effects in the body,’ said Professor Valter Longo, USC Davis School of Gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute.
“I’ve personally tried both, and the fasting mimicking diet is a lot easier and also a lot safer.
“I think based on the markers for ageing and disease in humans it has the potential to add a number of years of life but more importantly to have a major impact on diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other age-related disease.”
Day one of the diet comprises:
- 10 per cent protein, 56 per cent fat and 34 per cent carbohydrate, making 1,090 calories
Days two to five:
- Nine per cent protein, 44 per cent fat and 47 per cent carbohydrate making 725 calories
When humans tested out the regimen, within three months they had reduced biomarkers linked to ageing, diabetes, cancer and heart disease as well as cutting overall body fat.
For 25 days a month, study participants went back to their regular eating habits — good or bad. They were not asked to change their diet and still saw positive changes.
Feeding mice the equivalent restricted diet elevated the number of regenerative stem cells in the organs, including the brain where it encouraged the creation of new neurons which improved memory and learning.
When fed to middle aged mice, the diet also reduced the incidence of cancer, boosted the immune system, reduced inflammatory diseases, slowed bone mineral density loss and improved the cognitive abilities of older mice tracked in the study.
The researchers think it works by slashing a hormone which encourages growth, and has been linked to cancer susceptibility. Essentially it tricks the body into ageing more slowly.
“It’s about reprogramming the body so it enters a slower aging mode, but also rejuvenating it through stem cell-based regeneration,’ Professor Longo added.
“It’s not a typical diet because it isn’t something you need to stay on.”
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SOURCE: The Telegraph – Sarah Knapton