Fasting-mimicking diet provides unique cardiovascular benefits compared to the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with reduced risk of heart disease, a new study has revealed.

The diet aims to mimic the effects of fasting while allowing some food intake. The diet pattern involves restricting food that is low in calories, protein and carbohydrates but high in unsaturated fats for cycles of 4–7 days.

The Mediterranean diet involves a healthy eating pattern that involves the use of plant-based foods and healthy fats, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

In a trial conducted at the Hypertension Institute in Tennessee, researchers compared the effectiveness of both diets in reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease among people with obesity and hypertension.

The research team had already tested the safety, feasibility and cardiometabolic benefits of fasting-mimicking diet in normal and overweight healthy adults.

In the latest study, researchers compared the efficacy of four monthly cycles of a fasting-mimicking diet against a continuous Mediterranean diet.

The team evaluated the endothelial function and arterial compliance of the participants at the beginning and the end of the study. Any impairment of vascular endothelium is associated with conditions such as atherosclerosis and hypertension. Arterial compliance refers to the ability of arterial walls to distend and increase volume with pressure. The changes in cardiometabolic factors of the participants were also assessed.

The participants had five clinical visits in the follow-up period, during which measurements of waist circumference, body weight, height and heart rates were recorded.

At the end of the study, people who followed a fasting-mimicking diet showed a reduction in reactive hyperemia index (RHI), which indicates the potential impairment in endothelial function. However, both diet groups did not show improvements in arterial compliance.

The fasting-mimicking group showed a trend for reduced biological age, heart age and test scores that measured their five-year risk of stroke. The participants also showed lower trunk fat mass. However, the Mediterranean diet caused loss of lean body mass, indicating it may lead to an increased risk of frailty in old age.

Researchers noted that diversifying the menu would help people stick to a fasting-mimicking diet, particularly because many participants did not enjoy its taste. They also observed that periodic dietary regimens were more feasible than continuous ones.