Fasting diet reduces disease risk and biological age in humans

Changes in markers indicate reduced disease risk from fasting-mimicking diet.


A diet that mimics fasting, called a fasting-mimicking diet(FMD), helps reduce signs of immune system aging, insulin resistance, and liver fat in humans, resulting in a lower biological age. The new University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology led this study.

The FMD involves a five-day diet high in unsaturated fats and low in calories, protein, and carbohydrates, designed to mimic the effects of fasting while still providing essential nutrients. The laboratory of USC Leonard Davis School Professor Valter Longo, the senior author of the new study, developed the diet.

Longo said, “This study shows for the first time evidence for biological age reduction from two different clinical trials, accompanied by evidence of rejuvenation of metabolic and immune function.”

Previous research by Longo suggests that periodic cycles of a fasting-mimicking diet(FMD) offer various benefits, including stem cell regeneration, reducing chemotherapy side effects, and decreasing signs of Dementia in mice. In humans, FMD cycles have been linked to lowered risk factors for diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Longo’s lab found that one or two monthly FMD cycles increased mice’s lifespan and health span. In humans, the effects of FMD on aging, biological age, liver fat, and immune system aging were previously unknown.

The study examined the effects of a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) on disease risks and cell health in two groups of men and women aged 18 to 70. Those on the FMD had 3-4 cycles monthly, eating the diet for five days and then their regular diet for 25 days. The FMD included plant-based soups, energy bars, drinks, snacks, tea, and supplements. 

Results showed lower diabetes risks, less abdominal and liver fat, and a youthful immune system in the FMD group. Statistical analysis revealed an average reduction of 2.5 years in biological age for FMD participants. 

Lead authors Brandhorst and Levine noted that the FMD could be an effective, achievable way to improve health without significant lifestyle changes. Longo emphasizes its potential for disease prevention and improved healthspan.

The study indicates that the fasting-like diet gives promising benefits in lowering disease risk factors and reducing biological age in humans. The study findings support using periodic FMD cycles as a successful disease prevention and health improvement strategy.

Journal reference:

  1. Brandhorst, S., Levine, M.E., Wei, M., et al. A fasting-mimicking diet causes hepatic and blood marker changes, indicating reduced biological age and disease risk. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-45260-9.