A study conducted by the University of Southern California (USC) shows that fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged or old immune systems as well as lowering the white blood cell counts of patients receiving chemotherapy.

Research led by USC’s Valter Longo shows that periodically adopting a diet that mimics the effects of fasting may yield a wide range of health benefits including losing abdominal fat.

Longo and his colleagues developed a five-day low-calorie diet that mimics fasting (FMD).

The FMD consists of healthy, natural ingredients that the body doesn’t recognise as food, and it therefore remains in a fasting mode.

“Strict fasting is hard for people to stick to, and it can also be dangerous, so we developed a complex diet that triggers the same effects in the body,” Longo said.

The diet cuts caloric intake down to 34 to 54 percent of normal intake, with a specific composition of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and micronutrients.

Cancer cells starved out

Longo has previously shown how fasting can help starve out cancer cells while protecting immune and other cells from chemotherapy toxicity.

“It’s about reprogramming the body so it enters a slower aging mode, but also rejuvenating it through stem cell-based regeneration,” Longo said.

Consult a doctor

Despite its positive effects, Longo cautioned against water-only fasting and against attempting the fasting mimicking diet without first consulting a doctor and seeking their supervision throughout the process.

“Water-only fasting should only be done in a specialised clinic.”

“In contrast,” Longo added, “the fasting mimicking diet tested in the trial can be done anywhere under the supervision of a physician and carefully following the guidelines established in the clinical trials.”

Longo cautioned that people with diabetes should not undergo either fasting or fasting mimicking diets while receiving insulin, metformin or similar drugs. He also said that subjects with a body mass index less than 18 should not undergo the FMD diet.

For the study, Longo collaborated with researchers and clinicians from the University of Southern California (USC) as well as from Texas, Italy and England. The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging.