The Fast(ing) Track to Better Health

fastIt’s a different kind of ‘Hunger Games.’ The kind that may not only help you lose weight, but help to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and body fat as well. A new study suggests the fasting-mimicking diet has huge health benefits.

From Forbes Magazine:

Intermittent fasting has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, but much of the scientific research behind it has been in mice, not men. Now, a new study by a team at University of Southern California has looked at how the diet affects a number of health markers in humans over the short term. And verdict is pretty encouraging, at least on its face: Not only is it good for one’s weight, but it seems to benefit other markers of health, including the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Here’s a brief overview of how it works. Researchers allowed study participants to eat normally for most of the month, and then had them engage in intermittent-fasting for five days. They were not outright fasting – instead they were eating a special diet, developed by the head of the study team, Valter Longo. It included energy bars, energy drinks, vegetable based soups and supplements low in sugars and proteins but high in unsaturated fats good for the health…..about 700-1,100 calories per day.

According to Today.com, “On average, dieters lost around five pounds after three months on the diet.They also experienced less evidence of inflammation, which is linked with cancer, heart disease and obesity. They appeared to have better control of blood sugar, which is a risk factor for diabetes.”

United Press International (UPI) listed a few of the specific health benefits participants found during the study, which included:

  • an average weight loss of almost six pounds,
  • a one-to-two inch loss around the waist,
  • a blood pressure drop of 4.5 mmHg,
  • a diastolic blood pressure drop of by 3.1 mmHg, and
  • a drop in IGF-1 levels between 21.7 ng/ml and 46.2 ng/ml.

MedicalXpress.com quoted the study’s lead author, Valter Longo, as saying, “This study provides evidence that people can experience significant health benefits through a periodic, fasting-mimicking diet that is designed to act on the aging process. Prior studies have indicated a range of health benefits in mice, but this is the first randomized clinical trial with enough participants to demonstrate that the diet is feasible, effective and safe for humans.”

If semi-fasting for five days sounds difficult, you might be surprised to hear that 75 percent of participants completed the study. Scientific American noted that researchers found while people who are not in top shape may need to “repeat the five-day regimen as often as once a month to the point of recovery….individuals who are already healthy and athletic might repeat it just twice a year.”

Researchers plan to use the results to ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow them to do a bigger study. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the results and whether you believe this is something that may help drive better health in our state. Finding new and innovative ways to help Arizonans be as healthy as they can be is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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