Intermittent fasting has garnered lots of attention these days, with famous advocates like Hugh Jackman jumping on board the diet trend. Now, researchers at USC have looked at the benefits of a different kind of fast to help people lose weight and reduce diseases.
Researchers studied the diets of 100 healthy people, ages 20 to 70. Subjects in the control group ate as they normally would while test participants followed a three-month trial of a five-day plan that mimicked water-only fast. Dieters consumed between 750-1100 calories per day and were low in sugar and protein but high in unsaturated fats. Fasters lost an average of six pounds, shrank their waistlines one to two inches, lowered blood pressure and had reduced levels of the insulin-like growth factor 1, a hormone associated with cancer risk and aging.
Then, the control group took their turns on the fast so researchers could see if their health was impacted, too.
“After the first group completed their three months on the fasting diet, we moved over participants in the control group to see if they also would experience similar results,” says Valter Longo, study co-author and professor in a statement. “We saw similar outcomes, which provides further evidence that a fasting-mimicking diet has effects on many metabolic and disease markers.” In other words, mimicking fasting for just five days, every couple of months, could have significant weight and health benefits.
Participants who benefited the most were those considered at risk due to high IGF, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. This study was the second phase of the trial, and the team plans on testing the fast on patients who or at risk for age-related diseases or have already been diagnosed.
The food products used in the study were from L-Nutra, a nutritechnology company that makes fasting mimicking and enhancing diets. Longo is the founder of the company, and the university says the professor’s interest in the company has been managed per USC’s conflicts of interest policies.