Scientists recently revealed that people on "feast-and-famine" diets could live longer lives.
Based on studies previously done with mice, researchers expanded their study to humans and found that feasting some days and fasting on others increased the number of certain proteins responsible for longer lives.
Earlier studies showed that, in mice, fasting extends life spans and prevents many age-related diseases. However, most humans don't want to fast every day, so this new method, of only fasting every other day, could work for some.
In their experiment, researchers had 24 volunteers participate in a random trial of the diet. For three weeks, each volunteer alternated days of eating 25 percent (fasting) and 175 percent (feasting) of their daily caloric intake.
The results showed that proteins called SIRT3 increased in those volunteers participating in the diet. Researchers believe that these are the same proteins that activate in response to oxidative stress on the body. In earlier studies, these proteins were responsible for longer life spans in mice.
"The hypothesis is that if the body is intermittently exposed to low levels of oxidative stress, it can build a better response to it," says Martin Wegman, an M.D.-Ph.D. student at the UF College of Medicine.
Researchers also saw improvements in volunteers' weight, blood pressure, heart rate and glucose and cholesterol levels when they participated in the diet. The diet also decreased levels of insulin, meaning that it could be beneficial in combating diabetes.
Researchers did another similar experiment using the diet on participants, but adding antioxidants. However, they found that the levels of SIRT3 did not increase when volunteers took the supplements.
Most interesting about the study is the kind of foods volunteers ate: roast beef with gravy, Oreo cookies, bagels, oatmeal, applesauce, spaghetti, cake, candy bars and soda. It doesn't seem a particularly healthy diet, but because of the feasting and famine, participants still saw improvements in overall health.
"Most of the participants found that fasting was easier than the feasting day, which was a little bit surprising to me," says Michael Guo, a UF M.D.-Ph.D. student. "On the feasting days, we had some trouble giving them enough calories."
Scientists have previously studied the effects of fasting, including short-term fasting to kickstart the body's immune system. Fasting has also previously been linked with weight loss, as well as a preventative measure against heart disease and diabetes.
Of course, more studies will follow, and if anyone is considering a fasting or feast-and-famine diet, they should consult their physician.