New fast-mimicking diet can reverse age; experts weigh in on pros and cons | Health - Hindustan Times
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New fast-mimicking diet can reverse age; experts weigh in on pros and cons

By, New Delhi
Feb 23, 2024 02:26 PM IST

According to a new study, the 5-day fasting-mimicking diet high in unsaturated fats and low in overall calories can help reverse biological age.

A new fast-mimicking diet promises not only to make you healthy overall, but also reverse age. As per a new study by the University of South California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, cycles of a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) can lower risk factors for chronic diseases and reverse biological age in humans. The five-day diet is developed Prof Valter Longo and his team which mimics effects of water-only fast but adds essential nutrients to make fasting easier for people. The diet is high in unsaturated fats and low in overall calories, protein and carbohydrates. (Also read: What is Atlantic Diet, cousin of Mediterranean diet, that can help you live longer?)

Fast-mimicking diet works by tricking the body into thinking it is fasting, but technically, it is not.(Freepik)
Fast-mimicking diet works by tricking the body into thinking it is fasting, but technically, it is not.(Freepik)

During the five-day period, the participants were allowed to have plant-based soups, energy bars, energy drinks, chip snacks and tea, apart from nutritional supplements. This diet is said to promote stem cell regeneration, reduce chemotherapy side effects and diminish signs of dementia in mice. The benefits of the diet included rejuvenation of immune system, and reduced diabetes risk.

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"Fast mimicking diet allows you to harness the power of fasting without subjecting yourself to prolonged hunger pangs and nutritional deprivation. With its reduced calorie-intake concept, the fast-mimicking diet is more like modified fasting, where you don’t totally abstain from eating, compared with the conventional idea of fasting, but you consume a small amount of nutrient-dense foods. For five days, you must eat very little in order to follow the rules of the fast-mimicking diet. It works by tricking the body into thinking it is fasting, but technically, it is not. The body should feel satiated, not full. The fast-mimicking diet is found to be helpful in the different areas of the body’s function, including managing weight, improving brain function, lowering inflammation and preventing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, all of which are essential in lengthening the lifespan, says Sonia Bakshi, Nutritionist and Founder DtF. (Also read | What is mediterranean diet; top benefits from weight loss to heart attack prevention)

Bharathi Kumar, Dietician, Fortis Hospital, Nagarbhavi, Bangalore lists pros and cons of the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) associated with cycle of diet.

Pros

Weight loss: FMD facilitates weight loss by inducing calorie restriction, promoting fat burning, and preserving lean muscle mass. Studies have shown significant reductions in body weight, body fat percentage, and visceral fat after completing FMD cycles.

Improved metabolic health: FMD has been associated with improvements in various metabolic markers, including insulin sensitivity, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. These improvements may reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Cellular rejuvenation: FMD triggers cellular repair processes such as autophagy and apoptosis, leading to the removal of damaged cells and the regeneration of healthy cells. This cellular rejuvenation may slow down the aging process and reduce the risk of age-related diseases.

Enhanced cognitive function: Research suggests that FMD may improve cognitive function and brain health by reducing inflammation, promoting neuroplasticity, and increasing the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). These effects can lead to improved learning, memory, and overall brain function.

Longevity: While more research is needed, FMD has been proposed to extend lifespan and promote longevity by promoting cellular repair, reducing inflammation, and improving metabolic health. Studies in mice have shown extended lifespan and improved physical and cognitive function with FMD cycles.

Sonia Bakshi says the diet can lower cancer risk and supports healthy brain.

Lowers cancer markers: Scientists have discovered that there is a drop in insulin-like growth factor, which refers to a biomarker for cancer growth. There is also an increase in the activity of stem cell production that indicates the regeneration of healthy cells.

Supports a healthy brain: Research says that FMD can help improve motor coordination and memory and help accelerate the growth of nervous tissues.

Helps with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease: Both are preventable with the right health choices, and among them, one is the fast-mimicking diet. FMD could improve blood glucose levels, lower BP, triglycerides and total cholesterol. However more studies need to be done.

Cons

Bharathi Kumar shares the list of risks of such a diet:

Potential risks for certain populations: FMD may not be suitable for pregnant women due to increased nutritional needs during pregnancy, and it may pose risks for individuals with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, eating disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, or cancer. Consultation with a healthcare professional is advised before starting FMD, especially for those with underlying health concerns.

Limited long-term data: While initial studies show promising short-term effects of FMD, there is limited data on its long-term safety, efficacy, and sustainability. Further research is needed to assess the prolonged effects of FMD on health outcomes, disease risk, and aging processes.

Individual variability: Responses to FMD can vary widely among individuals due to factors such as age, sex, genetics, metabolic health, and lifestyle habits. This variability makes it challenging to predict effectiveness and tailor recommendations, highlighting the need for personalized approaches.

Potential disruption of social dynamics: Following FMD may disrupt social interactions centred around food, leading to feelings of isolation or exclusion from shared meals and cultural traditions. This disruption can negatively impact social well-being and mental health, particularly in social settings where food plays a central role.

Risk of overeating post-fasting: After completing FMD, some individuals may be tempted to overeat or indulge in high-calorie foods, negating the benefits of the fasting period and potentially leading to weight regain or metabolic disturbances. It's essential to practice mindful eating and make healthy food choices to maintain the benefits achieved during FMD.

Overall, while FMD offers several potential health benefits, including weight loss, improved metabolic health, cellular rejuvenation, enhanced cognitive function, and possibly longevity, it's crucial to approach it with caution, especially for certain populations, and to seek guidance from healthcare professionals when necessary.

Bakshi also shares temporary side effects of FMD that people need to watch out for:

1. Headache

2. Fatigue

3. Hunger

4. Dizziness

5.Lightheadedness

6. Nausea

7. Sugar cravings

8. Bloating

9. Cramping

10. Constipation

11. Diarrhoea

12. Unable to do strenuous activities

13. Unable to do heavy forms of workouts

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