|June 2, 2018||0|
Chances are you’ve heard that fasting offers numerous health benefits, from boosting the immune system to weight loss to improving insulin sensitivity. But while many people want the benefits of fasting, not many welcome the idea of going without food for long periods of time.
But what if there was a way you could gain the benefits of a fast without skipping meals?
Welcome to the “fasting mimicking diet,” or FMD, a protocol that has been getting a lot of attention from the medical community lately. The latest research is pointing to the fasting mimicking diet’s ability to do everything from improve cognition to manage diabetes.
Let’s dive in and take a closer look at what the diet is exactly and what some of the benefits are.
How Does the Fasting Mimicking Diet Work?
The fasting mimicking diet follows the same general principles as regular fasting in that you are depriving the body of food in order to take advantage of the health benefits like reduced inflammation and fat burning.
The primary difference is that instead of eliminating all food for a set period of days or even weeks, you are restricting calories for five days out of the month. This fasting period of five days can be done once a month or practiced every other month to promote health and well-being.
During day one of the diet, calories are restricted to 1,100 calories. For the remaining four days calories are restricted to 800 a day.
But it is not only the amount of food you eat that is important, it is also what you eat and in what ratios. Different proponents of the diet will recommend different macronutrient ratios. The general recommendation is to eat 1,100 calories that consist of 34% carbohydrates, 10% protein and 56% fat on day one, and
47% carbohydrates, 9% protein and 44% fat for the last four days. Others recommend an even higher intake of fat, with as much as 80% of calories coming from fat, 10% from protein and carbs, respectively.
“The Fasting Mimicking Diet allows the natural process of starvation (autophagy, protection, stem cell regeneration) to occur. You don’t interfere with the natural process. That’s a key of the Fasting Mimicking Diet.” – Dr. Valter Longo.
What Does the Science Say?
Science has already proven that calorie restriction has numerous benefits for the lifespan of animals. But what does the science say about the benefits of FMD on us mere mortals? Well, until very recently, the science didn’t say much.
However, a recent study  analyzed the effects of the FMD in humans and uncovered some profound results. The study was conducted on 100 healthy subjects. Half of them followed the FMD five days a month for three months, and half of them ate their usual diet.
After three months, the FMD group experienced weight loss (including visceral fat loss), drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and markers of inflammation. But what is even more astounding is the fact the FMD group also experienced a drop in insulin-like growth factor 1 (1GF-1), which is a biomarker for cancer growth.
Other Fasting Mimicking Diet Health Benefits
Let’s take a look at some of the other wonderful health benefits of the fasting mimicking diet:
The same study mentioned above also found that after three months, the FMD group experienced decreased levels of total and bad LDL cholesterol in participants. When we have too much cholesterol in our blood, it can cause plaque to build up in our arteries, leading the hardening and narrowing of arteries. This in turn can lead to coronary heart disease and potentially a life-threatening heart attack.
Combining the FMD with an overall healthy lifestyle can lower and maintain healthy cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy.
We already mentioned that the FMD study found the diet to reduce inflammation. But let’s talk about what inflammation is exactly and what it does to the body.
Inflammation is the body’s response to a foreign invader. It’s a very normal reaction by your immune system to protect your body. So, let’s say you get a splinter in your finger. Within minutes your finger becomes red and inflamed. Your body is using the process of inflammation to attack this foreign object. The same holds true when you get a cut or bug bite.
But what about inflammation within the body? How does this effect our health?
Chronic inflammation contributes to several chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. This means the FMD has the potential to reduce the risk of developing chronic disease.
Improves Brain Health
The FMD may help our golden years to be even more golden. In a 2015 animal study,  the FMD improved the cognition and promoted the regeneration of neurons in the brain of mice. It also decreased the markers of aging.
May Help Reverse Diabetes
Not only can the FMD reduce inflammation, a natural precursor to diabetes, it can also positively affect insulin production. In another animal study,  normal blood sugar levels were maintained and there was new generation of insulin-producing beta cells in mice.
The previously mentioned Science Translational Medicine study found that the participants following the FMD saw a reduction in blood sugar levels.
While more research is needed, there are very strong indicators that along with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle, the fasting mimicking diet may help control or even reverse diabetes.
“No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.” – Maimonides.
How to Begin
If you are interested in following the FMD, I encourage you to work with your doctor, dietitian, or diabetes coach. You may also want the guidance of a professional who can help you decide on proper macronutrient ratios.
I already covered some potential ratios and calorie counts, so let’s quickly discuss the kinds of foods you should be eating. Eating 55% – 80% fat does not mean you eat three donuts a day.
Instead, you should be eating a diet rich in plant-rich whole foods, with an emphasis on nuts and olives, which will provide healthy fat. You may also enjoy vegetable soups and broths, as well as herbal teas.
Things to limit:
Avoid alcohol and reduce caffeinated beverages. I’m not one to recommend avoiding coffee, but you can limit your intake to two cups of coffee or black tea a day. Also, you should not exercise vigorously during these five days. Instead, try taking a nice, gentle walk around the block.
“I am a better person when I have less on my plate.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Studies have found promising results using the fasting mimicking diet. That being said, it may not be for everyone. Pregnant women and the elderly should not attempt the FMD.
If you decide you’d like to experience the potential health benefits of the FMD yourself, speak with your physician and/or a nutritionist first. Be sure not to overdue it. Doing more than one five-day cycle per month could lead to nutrient deficiencies and negative effects on health.
Have you experienced any health benefits of the fasting mimicking diet? If so, let me know in the comment section.
 Journal Article
Multiple authors, Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Sci Transl Med. 2017 Feb 15;9(377)
 Journal Article
Multiple authors, A periodic diet that mimics fasting promotes multi-system regeneration, enhanced cognitive performance and healthspan. Cell Metab. 2015 Jul 7; 22(1): 86–99
 Journal Article
Multiple authors, Fasting-Mimicking Diet Promotes Ngn3-Driven β-Cell Regeneration to Reverse Diabetes. Cell. 2017 Feb 23;168(5):775-788.e12