Waiting for dinner. White background.

Dietary restriction as demonstrated by various animal models shows many health benefits. Fasting as understood by the majority of people is the consumption of water only, an extreme form of restriction. Studies in animals and people suggest repeated cycles of fasting may strengthen certain metabolic and immune functions. However, fasting for two or more days is difficult and can have untoward health effects.

Dr. Valter D. Longo Dietmar-photo
Dr. Valter D. Longo Ph.D., USC Davis School of Gerontology, Edna Jones Professor in Gerontology and Professor in Biological Science. Dietmar-photo

Researchers led by Dr. Valter Longo at the University of Southern California examined diets incorporating “the beneficial effects of fasting while minimizing the risks and difficulty associated with complete food restriction. The research was funded in part by NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA). Results were published in Cell Metabolism on July 7, 2015.” (Torgan, 2015)

Longo et al. initially tested cycles of extended fasting in yeast. It was noted that yeast cycled back and forth from a nutrient rich environment to water “had a longer lifespan and were better able to survive toxin exposure—a marker of increased stress resistance—than yeast not exposed to periodic starvation.” (Torgan, 2015)

Researchers then tested a very low calorie, low protein diet in mice. The diet structured to copy some of the healthful effects of fasting, including improving markers of longevity in metabolism. “Middle-aged mice (16 months old) were fed the diet for 4 consecutive days, followed by 10 days of unlimited access to food. The mice overate during these phases so that their overall calorie intake was similar to mice continuously fed a regular diet.” (Torgan, 2015)

These mice fed the diet twice a month continuing for several months experienced various metabolic changes, including lower blood glucose and insulin levels, then mice fed the control diet. The metabolic markers reverted to baseline levels during cycles of refeeding. “Mice fed the diet had less fat around their organs (known as deep or visceral fat) at 28 months of age. They also had a greater bone density at old age and increased nerve cell development in the brain. At the end of life, mice on the diet had fewer tumors and skin lesions than control mice.” (Torgan, 2015)

fasting dietFinally, a pilot study was administered on a small group of people. “Nineteen healthy adults consumed a proprietary plant-based diet that provided between 34% and 54% of the normal caloric intake with at least 9–10% protein, 34–47% carbohydrate, and 44–56% fat. Participants consumed the diet 5 days a month for 3 months (3 cycles), resuming their normal diet at the end of each diet period. A control group of 19 adults ate a normal diet.” (Torgan, 2015)

Again, people on the diet showed improvements in blood glucose and decreased body weight compared to the control group. Individuals with elevated C- reactive protein levels (a marker of heart disease risk) had decreased levels; individuals with normal levels had no change. Some side effects were noted by individuals on the diet is especially the T, weakness, and headache.

article-2317699-02C14BF100000578-711_634x613“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 says. “It’s not a typical diet because it isn’t something you need to stay on.”Longo went on to say, “I’ve personally tried both, and the fasting mimicking diet is a lot easier and also a lot safer.”  (Perkins, 2015)

Although the diet has many positive aspects, Dr. Longo raised a caution flag against water only fasting and warned that the fast mimicking diet should not be attempted without first consulting a MD. and remaining under their guidance  throughout the dieting  process.

“Not everyone is healthy enough to fast for five days, and the health consequences can be severe for a few who do it improperly,” Longo said. “Water-only fasting should only be done in a specialized clinic. Also, certain types of very low-calorie diets, and particularly those with high protein content, can increase the incidence of gallstones in women at risk.” (Perkins, 2015)

“In contrast,” he 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.” (Perkins, 2015)

More research with a larger study group is needed to resolve the long-term effects of this particular diet on human health and offer information on when and how such a diet might be applied.

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Perkins, R. (2015, June 18). Diet that mimics fasting appears to slow aging. Retrieved October 19, 2015, from USC News:

Torgan, C. (2015, July 13). Health Effects of a Diet that Mimics Fasting. Retrieved October 19, 2015, from NIH RESEARCH MATTERS:



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Captain Hank Quinlan, Owner, and Publisher, Chief Curmudgeon with Sam Borsalino, Assistant Publisher

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  1. I am on the fence with the subject of fasting. When I was younger I used to fast once a month. But, now I am 62 years old and I have found fasting stresses my body too much. The bottom line is listen to what your body is telling you. I have found I can do a modified fast that is appropriate for me. Just so you know, I saw my doctor a few weeks ago, He gave me kudos for my health. Nice, huh.

    Liked by 1 person

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