(CNN)How much — or how little — you eat could influence how long you live.
Vital Signs is a monthly program bringing viewers health stories from around the world.
The idea of caloric control improving your health, and therefore your lifespan, is nothing new, but researchers are now hoping to accurately determine the type of diet that could make you live longer.
One team at the University of Southern California (USC) are reducing the calorie count as low as it can go, using specific foods to trick the human body into thinking it’s fasting — a process called fasting mimicry.
“Diet can have a remarkable effect on you,” says Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology at USC Davis, who has been long been researching the mechanisms behind human aging and has recently turned his attention to fasting.
“It can reprogram your body and put it on a path to live longer,” says Longo.
Shutdown and regeneration
Fasting has been performed by communities and cultures for millennia and Longo’s team are curious about the advantages.
Their idea follows on from the long running trend of caloric restriction, mostly known through diets such as the 5-2 diet and intermittent fasting. Longo tested the impact of fasting for five consecutive days every month, believing that when the body thinks it’s in a state of fasting, it shuts down and goes into standby mode.
“As cells are killed and the body goes into standby, your stem cells switch on,” says Longo. Once switched on, the stem cells can regenerate the lost cells and organ mass — leaving you shiny and new.
When cells in the body age, their ratios change and Longo believes the body’s reaction — and repair methods — to fasting help restore them to when you were younger. “You’re killing the bad cells and regenerating with cells that are more functional.”
In a 2015 study, Longo’s team set a specific diet for human volunteers, which mimicked the effects of fasting over five consecutive days monthly, for three months. Trials were also conducted in mice.
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