Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have recently shown that a periodic ketogenic diet exerts similar beneficial effects to fasting on metabolic disease risk factors.
To date, most scientific papers about fasting have focused on how it can improve markers of aging and were conducted in animals.
This study – albeit small with 71 people – done by USC is one of the first controlled experiments implementing a fasting-mimicking diet in free-living human subjects.
The participants involved in this trial did not have type 2 diabetes, but some of them had high blood sugar levels and were predisposed to various metabolic disease risk factors.
Researchers tested whether a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD), designed and studied by Valter Longo, the director of the Longevity Institute at USC, could reduce those risks.
Longo has spent the last few years trying to figure out how much we can add to the diet of someone before we lose the effects of fasting and how to formulate it.
He came up with something that is “low”-calorie (up to 1,100 calories per day), low-protein, low-sugar, and relatively high-fat that does exactly that.
This is what the research team had participants consume five days a week for three months before measuring the evolution of their body composition, fasting glucose, and cholesterol levels.
According to the results, published in Science Translational Medicine, participants lost an average of about six pounds and trimmed their waistlines by one to two inches. At the same time, their total body fat went down.
As for fasting glucose, those who had blood sugar levels supporting a trend toward prediabetes saw their levels drop to a healthier range, here defined as below 5.5 mmol/l.
Those who had abnormal cholesterol values to begin with had a reduction of their total cholesterol by 0.5 mmol/l and experienced decreases in triglycerides as well as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
The findings suggest that periodically reducing energy intake through the consumption of a low-carb, ketogenic type of diet may confer some of the benefits of a full blown fast – which is very difficult for most people to do.
For more information about eating a low-carb diet, check out our Low Carb Program.

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