Can a diet that mimics fasting really be good for us?
According to a study published in Cell Metabolism, a diet that mimics fasting can actually reduce your risk factors for aging, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This is not the first study to broach the topic of intermittent fasting and its potential benefits to our health. We’ve heard that cutting calories could be the secret to healthy weight loss and body detox, but according to the study, skipping meals isn’t the answer, here.
Researchers at the University of Southern California analyzed the effects of the specialized calorie-restricted diet could have on yeast, mice and humans. What they found was that there was a trend across the board. Taking just five days to reduce calorie intake can have a dramatic effect on the body. Those on the Fasting Mimicking Diet had lower fat, lower cardiovascular risk, lowered cholesterol, and overall, were healthier than those not on the diet.
For the human part of the study, researchers analyzed about 38 patients, only 19 of which were put on the fasting diet which lasted for five days a month. The diet described in the study is not as extreme as normal fasting, and is meant to imitate fasting in the body while maintaining safety for the dieter.
The diet works by allowing the dieter to eat normally, whether good or bad, for 25 days out of the month, or the majority of the time. Then, the “fasting” begins for the next five days. On day one of the diet, 1,090 calories are consumed, broken down into the following categories: 10 percent protein, 56 percent fat and 34 percent carbohydrates. For the remaining four days, caloric intake is reduced to 725 calories – again broken down into 9 percent protein, 44 percent fat and 47 percent carbohydrates.
If followed correctly, and under the supervision of a physician, fasting methods can be a safe weight loss strategy for a short period of time. This definitely does not throw out traditional methods like clean eating and exercise.
Being able to make positive lifestyle changes that you can maintain should be the goal of any weight-loss or diet plan. If fasting pattern diets are followed by bouts of binge eating on non-fasting days, then the there is clearly no benefit to this process. It is actually more likely for people to gain weight in the long term this way.
The study’s authors state that their Fasting Mimicking Diet plan is much easier to stick to than strict fasting plans outlined by many intermittent fasting diet fads out there right now. So although caloric intake is cut for five days a month, it is done in a safer way, comprised of vegetable soups and chamomile tea, which gives the dieters the benefits of a fast without the possible complications.
In mice, this fasting method has been shown to restart the immune system. Moreover, the dieting pattern increased the number of progenitor and stem cells the mice’s organs, including the brain, boosting neural regeneration and even improving learning and memory.
Cutting calories and fasting for a period of time, whether short-term or long-term, can have serious effects. Skipping meals can mean a drop in energy levels, blood sugar and it can also make us feel sick.
Finding a proper way to cut calories, to maximize the benefit without experiencing the negative side effects is crucial. People should be careful not to fast for prolonged periods of time as this could lead to muscle wasting and health issues related to malnutrition.
Similarly, those with underlying illnesses may not be able to afford a calorie-cutting diet. Rather than strict fasting, find what works for you and focus on your long-term weight loss goals. Healthy habits like clean eating and smaller potions eaten throughout the day may work best.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for am970 in New York City. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter and Facebook.