health

For­get the pop­u­lar trend of fast­ing two days a week to lose weight. You can sup­pos­edly achieve the same goal by fast­ing for just five days a month. By Peta Bee.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS -

Val­ter Longo first drove into our lives four years ago in a bright red vin­tage Fer­rari con­vert­ible. His pas­sen­ger then was Dr Michael Mosley, who had come to Cal­i­for­nia in search of a sci­en­tific way to live longer and defy the ef­fects of age­ing – and, in the process, cre­ate a doc­u­men­tary for the BBC’s Hori­zon: Eat, Fast and Live Longer. The dark-haired, good-look­ing Ital­ian chauf­feur wasn’t just eye candy. He was the pro­fes­sor of geron­tol­ogy and bi­o­log­i­cal sciences at the Univer­sity of Sou South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and an em­i­nent fig­ure in the stu study of the com­plex me­chan­ics that con­trol age­ing a and dis­eases as­so­cia as­so­ci­ated with it, such as di­a­betes and can cancer. The c car, though, was a gim­mick.g The 44 44-year-old pro­fes­sor­pro­fess used it to ex­plain howho high lev­els of a hor­mone­hormo called IGF-1 en­cour­age­den­cou the body to burn­bur fuel like a sports car, prompt­ing cells to repli­caterep rather than re­pair­repa them­selves, lead­ing t to weight gain, in­creas­ing the po­ten­tial for dis­ease and de­creas­ing life ex­pectancy.

Un­der Longo’s guid­ance, Mosley em­barked on a three-day fast, the re­sults of which were to halve his lev­els of IGF-1 and re­boot his health.

In­spired by this, Mosley went on to co-write The Fast Diet, a book cred­ited with pop­u­lar­is­ing in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing, whereby twice a week you cut your calo­rie in­take to mi­nus­cule amounts – the 5:2 diet, the fast diet, call it what you will.

Every­one I know has tried the diet. Its ap­peal has al­ways been its sim­plic­ity: cut your calo­rie in­take to tiny amounts twice a week and you can re­lieve your­self of di­etary star­va­tion the rest of the time. For that, my male friends have loved it as much as women do and we have all rel­ished not just the ac­cel­er­ated and sus­tained weight loss, but the prom­ise of im­proved health and a longer life.

Yet in prac­tice for some peo­ple on-off fast­ing has taken its toll. Friends tell me they grew tetchy of the re­lent­less weekly cy­cle – “It made me dizzy and de­hy­drated,” says one woman I know. It tran­spires that even Longo, al­though not crit­i­cal of 5:2 di­et­ing, could see that con­tin­ued, in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing had its short­falls. “Strict fast­ing is hard for peo­ple to stick to and in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing with low calo­ries is a lot for peo­ple to han­dle,” Longo tells me when I call him in Los An­ge­les. “Peo­ple cheat; they feel it’s too hard.”

Now Longo has come up with a new diet, the “fast­ing-mim­ick­ing diet” (FMD). It is in essence a cheat’s fast, which in­volves cut­ting your calo­rie in­take for just five con­sec­u­tive days a month, but which achieves sim­i­lar ef­fects to the 5:2.

Un­usu­ally for a man who pro­motes de­nial as a means to healthy liv­ing, Longo loves his food. He grew up in Molo­chio, an Ital­ian town known for the longevity of its in­hab­i­tants, on a diet of pasta, veg­eta­bles and olives. He says he wouldn’t want to stick to a reg­i­men that wass so re­stric­tive it made him mis­er­able. He wants to “en­joy eat­ing nor­mally” as much as he can.

Even the most re­luc­tant di­eter can get their head round the FMD rules: con­sume 1100 calo­ries on the first day and 750 calo­ries for the next four and you’re done. For the rest of the month you can eat pretty much what you like. Longo tells me that you could loseose up to half a stone in the process. More im­por­tantly, his

“Strict fast­ing is hard for peo­ple to stick to and in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing with low calo­ries is a lot for peo­ple to han­dle.”

re­cent re­search sug­gests that it could have a dra­matic med­i­cal im­pact – it may prove to be a cure for type 2 di­a­betes, which af­fects three mil­lion peo­ple in the UK.

In a trial pub­lished in the jour­nal Cell, Longo and his team showed how the five-day diet ap­peared to “re­boot” the bod­ies of mice with types 1 and 2 di­a­betes di­a­betes, both of which­hich are char­ac­terised byb prob­lems reg­u­lat­ing blood sugar lev­els due to dif­fi­cul­ties in pro­duc­ing or re­spond­ing to in­sulin.

“The cy­cle of fast­ing meant we were able to demon­strate how non-in­sulin-pro­duc­ing cells could be re­gen­er­ated into in­sulin-pro­duc­ing cells,” he says. Even mice in late stages of the con­di­tion saw cells re­pro­grammed so that they func­tioned ef­fec­tively.

Other re­searchers have shown sim­i­lar ben­e­fits fast­ing has on the prog­no­sis of type 2 di­a­betes and, with larger tri­als planned, the evidence seemsse ever more con­vinc­ing.

Longo stresses that it’s not with­out risks: “No di­a­betes pa­tient should self-ad­min­is­ter a fast­ing diet and it should not be tried even with the help of a doc­tor since most doc­tors may not re­alise that its com­bi­na­tion with in­sulin and other drugs could be very dan­ger­ous,” he says. Nev­er­the­less he is con­fi­dent it has uses for di­a­betes and other med­i­cal is­sues. In an­other trial pub­lished last month, Longo and his col­leagues ran­domly di­vided 100 healthy adults, only a small num­ber of whom had sig­nif­i­cant weight to lose, into a con­trol group and

an­other that fol­lowed FMD. All of thet par­tic­i­pants un­der­went a bat­tery of test tests, with the five-day fasters show­ing im­prove­mentsim­pro in a range of meta­bolic mark­ers­marke linked with age­ing and dis­eases, such a as re­duced blood sugar lev­els, choles­terol­c­holes and blood pres­sure. Ad­di­tion­ally,Ad­di­tio their lev­els of IGF-1 and C-re­ac­tiveC-re­act pro­tein, a risk fac­tor for car­dio­vas­cu­lar­car­diov dis­ease, had gone down. Longo’sLongo lab is em­bark­ing on fur­ther tri­als look­ing a at the ef­fects of the diet on cancer and MS p pa­tients and the im­mune re­sponse to the in­fluen­zain­flu vac­cine. “Over the last 20 years, a tremen­dous amount of work has shown that, by re­duc­ing food in­take to trig­gerge trig­ger a ddrop drop in lev­else eso of ce cer­tainta hor­mones,o o es, the body bodyy re­sponds re­spon­nds by re­gen­er­at­ing healthy cells and get­ting rid of ddam­aged dam­aged or un­healthy ones,” Longo ex­plains. He Hee likens our bod­ies to steam trains that burn fuel to the veery very bott­tombot­tom of sup­plies to en­able max­i­mal re­fu­elling at the nexxt next sta­tion. “By emp­tyingemp­tyi­ing ourr our body’s re­serves oc­ca­sion­ally, oc­c­ca­sion­al­lly, we are able to reebuild re­build cellsc cells so that they are aree stronger­strong­ger and bet­ter able too to with­s­stand with­stand dis­ease.” For those who wwho are aree more con­cerned about aabout theirth­heir waist­lines,aist­lines thhe the good news is that weight ht loss was a wel­come side-ef­fect on all of Longo’sngo’s re­search pro­grammes, s, with par­tic­i­pants shed­ding an av­er­age of 2.5kg.5kg in one to three months. hs. To­tal body fat, trunk fat, t, BMI and waist cir­cum­fer­ence nce are also sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced on the plan. “If youu have ex­cess weight to lose, the drop will be greater,”g Longo says.says “If you don’t, then it’s more about main­tain­ing weight and im­prov­ing health.” Such is his faith in FMD that L Longo has com­mer­cialised the find­ings in the form of a five-dayfi meal plan to be launched in the UK next mon month. ProLon – it stands for PRO­mote Health and LON LONgevity and not, as I pre­sumed, Pro­fes­sor Longo – will pro­vide daily sup­plies for a mini fast in a b box de­liv­ered to your door for about £225 ($400). Its com­bi­na­tionco of soups, crack­ers, health bars, sup­ple­ments and en­er­gyen drinks is for­mu­lated with precision to be low in sugar but rel­a­tively high in com­plex carb carbs and healthy fats. If youyo want the specifics, that means 10 per cent pro­tein, 56 per cent fat and 34 per cent car­bo­hy­drate on day o one, then on days two to five the mix is 9 per cent pro­tein, 44 per cent fat and 47 per cent car­bo­hy­drate com­ing in at about 750 calo­ries. A book is to follow this year and, given Longo’s pedi­gree, it’s an odds-on best­seller. None of this is likely to make him a mil­lion­aire.

“I’ve com­mit­ted all my shares to a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion I started called Cre­ate Cures, so we could con­tinue to re­search and learn about fast­ing,” he says.

The for­mat has been tested on al­most 4000 peo­ple and Longo says the ap­proach is pop­u­lar not only be­cause of fat-shred­ding, but be­cause it’s less risky and hard­core than a full-blown fast.

“We still don’t know how safe long-term fast­ing is,” he says. “We do know there are some risks, such as gall­stones, with fre­quent fast­ing of more than 12 hours’ du­ra­tion, but there may be other side-ef­fects we don’t know about yet.” For those with 5:2 fa­tigue, the FMD cer­tainly seems more for­giv­ing. “We are not even say­ing that peo­ple should fast strictly for five days ev­ery month,” Longo says. “For a nor­mal-weight per­son with no health is­sues, the ben­e­fits of a sin­gle five-day fast can ex­tend to sev­eral months. Re­peat­ing the diet ev­ery three to four months is enough.” If you are look­ing to an­ni­hi­late your body fat, a monthly fast is prob­a­bly op­ti­mal. “But don’t put pres­sure on your­self to re­peat it at a cer­tain time,” Longo says. “If you are on holiday or away with work when you planned to fast, post­pone it to the fol­low­ing week. It should not be stress­ful.”

It strikes me that the diet is em­i­nently doable, more so even than the 5:2. If you man­aged the piti­ful 500 daily calo­ries it per­mits, then 1100 or even the 750 al­lowed on the most ex­treme days will seem a feast.

It’s also de­li­ciously short-term. See it through the five days and you are ef­fec­tively off-duty for weeks, yet you will still see your dress size drop­ping. Who could fail to be won over?

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