You may have heard about the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD), promoted by Professor Valter Longo, author of The Longevity Diet. Prof. Longo’s research is all about aging – and more importantly, how to slow it down!
Although Longo studies centenarians – those who live over 100 years – his focus is not on dragging yourself to your 100th birthday with the standard diseases that typically come with aging (think heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, dementia, Parkinson’s, cancer, etc.). Instead, he looks at how fasting can change your physiology in order to PREVENT these diseases. In other words, aging with vibrant health and vitality.
Who doesn’t want this? Many of us see our beloved elders rapidly decline as they age. Of course this isn’t always the case, but in the United States it’s more common than not to equate aging with suffering and misery. Many of my patients at a certain age (often as young as 50!) say things like:
- This aging stuff is for the birds!
- Aging sucks! Don’t do it.
- I know this (fill in the blank) disease is just a part of aging. Runs in the family.
Do you actually have a choice about how you age? Are all the “aging diseases” truly preventable?According to Longo’s research and those behind the FMD, the answer is yes! The science is there and it makes good sense.
My friends are doing it . . .
This year I’ve watched my Functional Medicine colleagues use the FMD with their patients, primarily to shake up metabolic syndrome and resistant weight loss – with great success. People are losing weight, changing their hunger signaling, improving their labs (like high cholesterol and blood sugar), and their body composition . . . and the good news is these changes are sticking after the five-day fast.
The beauty of the FMD is that it is designed (and proven) to reap all the benefits of fasting, but you still get to eat. You eat a certain way and far less, for five days. This way of doing it is easier than fasting with no food. In fact, fasting with no food can cause a breakdown in body tissue that you don’t want to lose! The FMD preserves important tissue like muscle, and gets rid of the crappy stuff – stored fat and cellular garbage.
ProLon is the prepackaged version of the FMD that replicates Longo’s research to the tee. You get a slick white box that looks like a new Apple computer. Inside are five individual boxes that contain high-quality organic food for each day. The best part is that ProLon is all dialed in – no thinking, planning, shopping, chopping or cooking. You can do a homemade version as well – which is great for people with dietary restrictions.
So what ARE the benefits of fasting?
The researched benefits of controlled fasting – NOT starving – are compelling. Fasting induces a process called autophagy (literally self-eating). This is when your cells get rid of damaged organelles, misfolded proteins (think cancer) and invading microorganisms (think chronic infections and pathogens).
It’s all about autophagy
Documented and well-researched results of the FMD that continue after the five days include:
- Loss of abdominal (belly) fat – a dangerous metabolically active type of fat.
- Lowered cholesterol.
- Improved insulin sensitivity.
- Reduced inflammation.
- Increased stem cell production and regeneration of tissue.
- Improved stress resistance.
- Protection against age-related degeneration such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and neurodegeneration (think dementia and Alzheimer’s).
There are many approaches to fasting – you may have heard about intermittent fasting which is all the rage. The fasting mimicking diet is a bit different, because you actually get to eat AND get the benefits of fasting. How do we know this? There’s a huge amount of research behind it. In fact there’s more research behind this approach then there is behind intermittent fasting.
The FMD is easier to do than other forms of fasting and actually gets better results with all of the above markers. Check out this comparison chart:
My own home experiment
So, my adventurous partner Seth and I decided to try the FMD ourselves, as I like to do with most things before recommending them to patients. The science is there. The logic is there. But I wanted to know how it actually FEELS to do it!
First of all, I had fasting labs done to see how the FMD will affect markers like lipids, fasting blood sugar and insulin, hemoglobin A1C, and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation). Seth rejected labs, because, well, not everyone likes blood draws.
Here’s our story . . .
Confession: we had a smidgen of coffee in the morning, which is allowed “if needed.” We needed!
Since we decided to do this, I’ve learned of two women who got rid of their Hashimoto’s thyroiditis by fasting, one of them with ProLon. I’m pretty excited to see what happens, and looking forward to the metabolic shakeup!
Day one was bearable, however we were tired, hungry and a tad grumpy.
Seth woke up feeling great. His energy was better compared to day one, even though calories dropped from 1075 on day 1 to around 700 today! He was even able to grocery shop for our ravenous teenager and not die of fatigue or hunger.
Me however – different story. I woke up FULL of histamine reactions (stuffed nose, puffy eyes, wheezing, headache), joint and muscle pain, and a heavy fatigue. I felt like I got hit by a truck.
Why the difference? I reacted to the packaged food ingredients (drat!) due to a long term struggle with food intolerances. The culprits were in most of the foods: yeast, garlic and onion powder. I took my killer natural anti-histamines and recovered. But what to do? Continue or not?
We decided I should shift to a homemade version of the FMD with my “safe” foods. I felt much better, but I was jealous of Seth’s white boxes and no work.
Day two was easier on less food! Our minds were clear and we were slightly tired, but not hungry or grumpy.
We thought day three was the same amount of food as day two, but nope, it’s less. Nonetheless, as you can see from this video, Seth felt great. By the way, this is shocking, as he normally has the need-to-eat-frequently kind of metabolism. He tried “muscle-ups” in the park for the first time in a couple of years.
I continued with my homemade version, and sorry, no muscle-ups. I had lots of noise and rumbling in my intestines which actually felt really good. It could mean my migrating motor complex (waves of small intestine muscular movement that only happen on an empty stomach, and often damaged with SIBO) was waking up.
Day three we were fully in the appetite suppression stage of fasting because even with less food, it felt easier than the first two days. We were both not very hungry and had more energy.
JUMP TO DAY FIVE
Day four was easy and uneventful. Day five we had a HUGE amount of energy and mental clarity. I cleaned out the entire garage, which we had avoided for two years, while Seth worked all day with active pediatric patients.
Day 5 was a clear win. It was worth the whole experience just to get the garage cleared in one day! Crisp thinking and clear decisions.
TRANSITION DAY (FIRST DAY AFTER FMD)
Both Seth and I rocked long clinic days, with great energy and clear minds. We transitioned with light food – smoothies, soups, and vegetables. We could have gone longer, but it was sure nice to enjoy a bit more food!
TWO WEEKS LATER
I have to say I’m impressed with how we both feel. We each dropped about 5 pounds and held it. And other things changed:
- The appetite suppression effects from fasting lasted and we have naturally been eating lighter. TRUE.
- We are more aware of eating mindfully – after savoring every little piece of food for five days, and refraining from mindlessly stuffing food in our mouths while multitasking . . . we feel more mindful about actually sitting down and being present with each bite and enjoying our food. This is unexpected and amazing.
- We have both been eating less animal protein, for better or for worse!
- Energy and mental clarity have been even-keel and fantastic, as well as physical strength. No slumps.
- We both feel a shift in our body composition (leaner). Wow.
One approach is to the do the FMD once a month, for three months – then done. Another is to do it twice a year, or once a season. We decided to do two more rounds, in October and November, and then redo labs and see what else we notice. Next round we both do the homemade version.
So is the FMD right for you?
If you’re interested in the FMD, it’s good to do it under the guidance of a practitioner. Especially if you have any medical conditions or take any medications. Someone on social media asked if fasting messes up your metabolism. If fasting is done in an evidence-based safe approach, it should actually HELP your metabolism.
There are some obvious populations that should forgo fasting, such as children, pregnant women, those with certain medical conditions, and people with “disordered eating,” – which includes binging in reaction to restriction. By the way, we had absolutely no desire to binge afterwards – the appetite suppression and mindfulness towards eating continued, which could be the case with disordered eating, but it doesn’t seem worth chancing it!
So . . . thumbs up on the FMD for:
- Abdominal fat loss
- Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome (including high cholesterol and blood pressure)
- Weight loss resistance
- Prevention of cancer and cognitive decline
- Change in body composition and appetite
- Promoting regeneration and stem cell growth
- Knocking down inflammation