Notice I capitalized the name of this diet, and that is because this is a patented and commercial version of the fasting methods that we are documenting on this site from widely available research.
The patent is held by Valter D. Longo and Chia-Wei Cheng, and it is currently commercialized by a company called L-Nutra.
So, what is this product that holds the key to a long life without the pain of hunger and abstinence from most food?
Mimicking fasting through strategic macronutrient allocation
So the patented version of the fasting mimicking diet targets 5 days of fasting every month. Dr. Longo’s method is a closely guarded secret, but the patent (January 2015) gives us all the information we need to determine the reason this diet works.
In the same way, we have described in previous articles, the fasting period does not have to be a water-only fast, nor does it even have to be very restrictive on overall calories. The caloric restriction only helps by accelerating the shift to ketosis. The key is to reduce easily digestible carbohydrates.
Targeting high micronutrient content
The Fasting Mimicking Diet targets a high micronutrient content during the fasting cycle. During the 5-day fasting period, the diet prescribes the following:
- Over 5,000 IU of vitamin A per day;
- 60-240 mg of vitamin C per day;
- 400-800 mg of Calcium per day;
- 7.2-14.4 mg of Iron per day;
- 200-400 mg of Magnesium per day;
- 1-2 mg of copper per day;
- 1-2 mg of Manganese per day;
- 3.5-7 mcg of Selenium per day;
- 2-4 mg of Vitamin B1 per day;
- 2-4 mg of Vitamin B2 per day;
- 20-30 mg of Vitamin B3 per day;
- 1-1.5 mg of Vitamin B5 per day;
- 2-4 mg of Vitamin B6 per day;
- 240-480 mcg of Vitamin B9 per day;
- 600-1000 IU of Vitamin D per day;
- 14-30 mg of Vitamin E per day;
- Over 80 mcg of Vitamin K per day;
- 16-25 mcg Vitamin B12 provided during the entire 5-day period;
- 600 mg of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, algae-derived) is provided during the entire 5-day period.
This amazing cocktail of antioxidants and minerals makes adaptation to ketosis easier. To get these levels of micronutrients with minimal carbohydrates, the diet allows the following ingredients during the fasting period:
- Yellow Bell Pepper,
- Lemon Juice,
- Carrot, Olive Oil,
- Beet Juice,
- Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin),
- Butternut Squash,
- Tomato Juice,
- Orange Juice,
- Romaine Lettuce,
- Orange Rind,
- Citric Acid,
Now that reads like a Mediterranean Diet, which is a diet deserving of its own article because it is very relevant for longevity research.
Targeting ketosis by restricting carbohydrates and protein
The diet aims to be ketogenic during the 5-day fasting period. Again, this is similar to what previous articles on this site described why intermittent fasting works.
As we have read in Intermittent Fasting and Weight Gain and in the article on the bone broth diet, targeting ketosis without reducing the overall calorie count was preferred over a water-fasting regimen. Feeding on the right nutrients during the fast reduces the volatility of metabolism over time, and this is good for long-term weight control.
However, since the Fasting Mimicking Diet does introduce some complex carbohydrates for their rich nutrient content during the fasting period, the overall calories are targeted for reduction. The diet restricts overall calories to below 50% of normal intake. It restricts both protein, sugar and overall carbohydrates. It is easy to see why sugar and carbohydrates are restricted because they directly contribute to blood glucose levels. In the absence of sufficient carbohydrates, excess protein is broken down into glucose. Therefore, too much protein interferes with ketosis.
Increasing calorie sources from fat
The diet also favors short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids, with some versions of the diet containing 25% of calories from these two types of fats. The former has 2 to 6 carbons in their molecular structure and the latter have 8 to 12 carbon atoms.
Why is this important? It turns out that these types of fats have several properties that promote longevity. Short-chain fatty acids are important for colon health because they are the primary energy source for colonic cells. These fatty acids also have anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. Medium chain fatty acids accelerate ketone production because they cannot be absorbed and therefore must be broken down by the liver cells.
Foods containing these fatty acids include olive oil, kernel oil, and coconut oil.
Re-feeding is calorie-restricted until optimal weight is reached
The diet’s re-feeding period is tailored for the individual and will depend on weight and objectives. It is typically calorie restricted up to 60% of normal intake until the desired weight is achieved. When weight goals are reached, the re-feading cycle can be 90-130% of the normal caloric intake.
What the Fasting Mimicking Diet accomplishes
It is good to see a commercial application of the latest in nutritional science. These advancements in relation to longevity used to be only the realm of the fringe, but we are increasingly seeing medical providers sign up for the new understanding of nutrition and healthy eating habits.
The Fasting Mimicking Diet aims to treat and prevent type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. The patent states that the diet promotes pancreatic regeneration and alleviates symptoms and risk factors of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It promotes pancreatic regeneration and the regenerative functions of transplanted stem cells, which can be utilized in stem cell therapy.
The methods in this diet have been found to induce pancreas and beta cell regeneration, which is key to treating type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients. Similar to intermittent fasting diets, this commercialized version has been useful in reversing insulin resistance and hyperglycemia.
The beta cell regeneration is not surprising considering many reports of increased stem cell activity due to intermittent fasting and fast mimicking diets. The increased stem cell activity confirms the regenerative effects associated with intermittent fasting and the diet’s positive impact on lifespan in humans.
So, there you have it! The medical establishment is practicing intermittent fasting as a therapy. The great thing about this diet is that it has the stamp of approval a celebrity doctor. The research behind the patent was partially government-funded, which is a good sign and a step in the right direction. However, the idea is simple and has been around for a long time. It is only now that we are beginning to see progress in the application of the latest research in healthcare.