Following a diet that mimics fasting may reduce risk factors for disease in generally healthy people, according to a small study.
Researchers at UCLA’s Longevity Institute tested the effects of the “fasting-mimicking diet” on various risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, cancer or other conditions.
The diet (called FMD; brand name ProLon) is low in calories, sugars and protein but high in unsaturated fats.
For the trial, 48 participants ate normally for three months while 52 ate FMD for five days each month and ate normally the rest of the time. After three months, the groups switched regimens. Although all participants were considered healthy, some had high blood pressure, low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and other risk factors.
FMD plan reduced many risk factors
A total of 71 people completed the study. Body mass index, blood pressure, fasting blood sugar and cholesterol improved with FMD, but mainly for those who were already at risk.
The diet also reduced levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammation protein and IGF-1, a hormone that affects metabolism. Following the diet reduced waist circumference and body fat and resulted in weight loss, but not in muscle loss.
Side effects were mild and included fatigue, weakness and headaches.
While most participants had one or more risk factors for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer, the researchers stated that FDA trials will be necessary to demonstrate whether periodic FMD is effective in disease prevention and treatment.
According to the company that makes FMD, the diet is intended for use “by people who want to optimize their health, by overweight or obese individuals who want to manage their weight, and by people who have abnormal levels of biomarkers for aging and age-related conditions.”
If you have conditions associated with overweight and obesity such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, you should not use FMD without a doctor’s approval.
The product also should not be used by children under 18 or pregnant or nursing women.
Keep in mind, the study compared the fasting-mimicking diet to participants’ usual diet. It’s unknown how this diet stands up against long-standing approaches shown to be beneficial, such as the Mediterranean or DASH Diet.
It’s also not known how this type of restrictive diet affects muscle mass in the long term, and what impact this has on various indicators of health.
Source: Science Translational Medicine, online February 15, 2017.
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