In 2011, I told you about a study that found why a calorie-restricted diet could help you live longer. Now, I want to tell about another study that says you only need to restrict your calories 4 days out of the month to get some major health benefits, including living longer. Here’s the details…
Why You Should Restrict Your Diet To Just 4 Days a Month
If I told you that you could get rid of your belly fat, revitalize your brain tissues while you boost brain power, amp up your immune system, prevent, even help treat, cancer, and live longer to boot, would you believe me?
As incredible as that string of health benefits sound, researchers out of the University of Southern California believe they have found the way to achieve all that. And the best thing is, the way to do it is pretty simple and something anyone can do. It just involves limiting your diet 4 days out of the month, and maybe only doing so 3-4 times a year!
In their study, the USC researchers found that limiting test participants’ diet for 4 days a month actually mimicked fasting benefits without the hardship. Let’s face it, fasting can be hard to do and is not something everyone can, or should, do. But, with all the health benefits that their 4-day diet offers, I think just about anyone can make it through 4 days of restricted food intake.
They originally tested their diet on mice which typically have very short life spans. In addition, testing the diet on yeast allowed the researchers to more clearly understand the beneficial biologic mechanisms that fasting triggered. They then went on to do a pilot study in humans and found that both the mice and yeast studies results could also be applicable to humans.
Here’s the amazing results that their studies of the FMD (fasting mimicking diet) revealed:
1. Extended life span.
2. Reduced the incidence of cancer.
3. Boosted the immune system.
4. Decreased inflammation.
5. Decreased bone mineral density loss.
6. Boosted cognitive abilities (thinking, problem solving, memory).
7. Decreased the IGF-1 hormone, often associated with aging and cancer development.
8. Increased the beneficial IGFBP hormone.
9. Decreased blood sugar levels, belly/trunk fat, and C-reactive protein. These are all dangerous biomarkers/risk factors for the development of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
10. No major side effects were noted and muscle and bone mass were not negatively affected.
The FMD reduces caloric intake 34-50% of normal intake. That means, if you normally consume 2,000 calories a day, you would decrease down to 1,000-1,313 calories a day. But, these are not just any calories. They’re made up of a specific combination of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, while boosting key micronutrients.
While the researchers have not published the specifics of the particular fasting mimicking diet they used, here’s what I frequently recommend to my patients:
Protein. Eat enough protein to support your weight at least 50%. For example, if you weigh 180, you need 90 grams of protein a day, slightly more if you’re a man. Older women are more prone to the development of gallstones on very high protein diets, so a good rule of thumb is not to go over 100 grams a day.
Carbohydrates. Omit refined sugar (cakes, cookies, juice, etc) and “white” foods like bread and corn which spike blood sugars. Get the majority of your carbohydrates from vegetables and limited fruit intake. Choose from low sugar fruits like apricots, plums, berries. Limit grains to 1-2 servings a day, but make them high fiber whole grains. Limit total carbohydrate intake to between 75-80 grams, add more if you’re urinating too frequently to avoid dehydration and muscle cramps.
Fats. Add 2-3 servings of good fats to your foods. These include olive oil, mixed nuts (choose lightly salted or unsalted), flax seeds, salmon, mackerel, tuna. Switch out margarine for olive oil on your foods. Further boost good fats by taking high dose Omega-3 supplements like Krill or Salmon Oil at 1,000 mg, 1-2 per day.
Nutrients. Taking a good multivitamin daily will help ensure you’re getting enough during your 4-day low calorie fast. But, amping up certain nutrients can also boost the good health effects of the diet. As the diet is aimed at reducing the risk factors for diseases that come with aging, it’s crucial to replenish all the vitamins/minerals that many “Baby Boomer” aged people are often deficient in. These include the B vitamins, particularly B12, B6 and B9. Taking a good “Stress B-Complex” product can help.
In addition, magnesium deficiencies are also rampant in seniors. Be sure to get between 250-500 mg a day. Zinc, selenium and iodine are other crucial minerals that are also often lacking. Selenium and iodine deficiencies occur most commonly in the Midwest Great Lakes region, so be sure your multivitamin contains these or take them as a single supplement.
Vitamin C and Vitamin E are also powerful antioxidants that keep your immune system stoked, as well as keeps your skin, heart, eyes, and brain in good condition. Aim for at least 500 mg of Vitamin C per day and 400 mg of Vitamin E mixed tocopherols/tocotrienols.
Water. Water is a crucial part of your health, whether you’re on the FMD or not. Always be sure to drink half your body weight in water ounces. For example, if you weigh 200, you’ll want to drink at least 100 ounces of water per day, and perhaps more if it’s very hot, or you’re sweating alot.
Exercise. During the 4-day FMD, I feel it’s wise to decrease the intensity of your exercise. Do a lighter routine, such as medium paced walking, leisurely bicycle riding, yoga, or Pilates moves, on an every other day routine. Keep the higher intensity aerobics, weight training for when you’re eating more again.
The FMD is a safe and effective way to achieve better health. I feel just about anyone can handle 4 days of it on their own, but certainly with supervision. If you take insulin, metformin, or other blood sugar lowering drugs, please check with your doctor first as you may need to decrease the amount of medication you need. In addition, people with BMI (body mass index) of less than 18 should not do an FMD.