Earlier this year, the science journalist Dag Kättström gave us a quick course on the fasting mimicking diet. He told us about studies which show that a fasting mimicking diet can start healing processes in the body.
And since then there has been new research emerging that we thought was interesting; a new study was published on how fast mimicking diets positively impacts intestinal health. So, we reached out to Dag again. The following is a mini interview with him on the topic and the study findings:
– What is the latest research showing on the matter?
Researchers have investigated whether fasting diets can help various inflammatory bowel diseases which are grouped together under the term IBD – Inflammatory Bowel Disease. They used mice in the study and the results show that those who ate cycles of fasting mimicking diet had fewer symptoms and even rebuilt mucous membranes in the intestines compared to those who ate as usual or were on a complete fast. For those who are more curious, you can read the entire study here.
– Sounds positive, but how about a quick refresher on what a fasting mimicking diet is?
Well, American researchers have discovered that if you eat about one third of your normal calorie intake for five days and keep your protein intake very low, the effects are positive in the form of reduced inflammation and generally better health stats. In fact, you get better health effects by eating a little during a fast, in comparison to not eating at all. This is supported in the new study as well. The intestines of the mice improved with the fasting mimicking diet, while that was not the case with a complete fast.
– Okay. What is the likely cause of this effect then?
One reason may be that fasting mimicking diets strengthen good bacterial strains such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. In the case of a total fast, with only water, no such reinforcement is noticed. Rather, inflammatory-driving strains such as paraprevotelaceae receive a boost.
Another thing the researchers think is important is that fasting mimicking diets somehow regulate the TNFα protein. It is a very powerful protein that can both trigger strong inflammation and stimulate new cell formation. While fasting, the levels of TNFα go down and the inflammation in the intestine decreases, but when you start eating again something surprising occurs. The mice that fasted completely regained levels of inflammation, while those who mimicked fasting had less inflammation and instead had new cell tissue in the intestines.
Similar effects have been found by researchers in previous studies of fasting mimicking diets and autoimmunity.
– Ok, but this positive effect doesn’t occur when you are on a complete fast?
Perhaps it is due to the fact that the body is completely deprived of food that it does not prioritize repair, while a typical starvation diet with reduced calories and limited protein, strengthens the body for the future when more food will be available. These are processes that have evolved over billions of years of evolution and are likely to be found in similar forms in all animals. When eating fasting mimicking diet for five days, these processes are turned on.
– So how will researchers move forward with the gut research?
Above all, these results must be repeated on people, but the researchers hope that the diet plan will eventually help people. The IBD diseases, such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative colitis, are severe conditions that cannot be cured and more tools are certainly welcome for those who suffer.
– Have you investigated whether fasting mimicking diet helps other intestinal problems such as IBS?
Not yet. And as many people with IBS can attest, it is quite individualized as to what helps. But I personally think that the most interesting fact is that the latest study suggests that good intestinal bacteria can be strengthened by the diet. It could be good for everyone.
But we’ll have to wait and see. Right now, a total of 24 clinical studies on the fasting mimicking diet are underway, ranging from the effects on cancer to weight loss. It will be extremely interesting to continue following the research.
– Thank you, Dag!