Fasting for five days each month could potentially slow down the ageing process and add years to life, according to scientists at the University of Southern California. They discovered that cutting calorie intake to between a third and a half of normal levels for a set period can rejuvenate the immune system, as well as cutting the risk of heart disease and cancer, two of the biggest killers in the UK.

The diet, dubbed the ‘Fasting Mimicking Diet’ (FMD), tricks the body into thinking it is fasting and was tested on yeast, mice and humans, all of which showed significant health benefits. In humans, fasting lowered the levels of the hormone IGF-1, which accelerates ageing. It also reduced the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other age-related diseases.

Participants were given a small meal for five days a month, mimicking the effects of a fast, then allowed to eat what they wanted for the rest of the month. This repeated cycle appeared to reprogramme the body, reducing the number of damaged cells and encouraging regeneration.

The research suggests that the diet could be particularly beneficial for older people or those suffering from damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients. However, further studies are needed to confirm the findings.

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