By Shawn Thomas

LOS ANGELES (CBS Atlanta) — Dieting is usually given a bad rap in the medical community, with many physicians arguing against diets as a whole.

However, new research out of the University of Southern California has shown that fasting, a form of dieting, can have innumerable benefits for the human body.

As the Telegraph reports, a team of researchers have developed the Fasting Mimicking Diet, or FMD, a fasting plan that restricts caloric intake between one-third and one-half of a person’s normal intake.

The benefits of the fasting plan are believed to include added years to one’s life, the regeneration of immune system cells and a lower risk of developing heart disease and cancer.

“I think based on the markers for ageing and disease in humans it has the potential to add a number of years of life but more importantly to have a major impact on diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other age-related disease,” explains Professor Valter Longo of the USC Davis School of Gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute.

More specifically, participants who have tested the regimen saw reduced biomarkers linked to aging, diabetes, cancer and heart disease as well as an overall reduction in body fat after three months.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country killing almost 610,000 people each year. Additionally, cancer leads to about 589,000 deaths in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society, making this research good news for a vast majority of Americans.

Normally, fasting is done over a long period of time, but as researchers have pointed out, following the FMD for only five days a month can produce life-changing results.

“Strict fasting is hard for people to stick to, and it can also be dangerous, so we developed a complex diet that triggers the same effects in the body,” Longo says, “I’ve personally tried both, and the fasting mimicking diet is a lot easier and also a lot safer.”

Another added bonus: FMD followers can continue eating what they like the other days of the month.

Researchers think that the fasting works by cutting down a growth hormone that is also linked to cancer vulnerability.

“It’s about reprogramming the body so it enters a slower aging mode, but also rejuvenating it through stem cell-based regeneration,’ Professor Longo added.

Longo says that most normal people can do the FMD every three to six months, depending on their health status.

While this research is still very new, Longo is currently testing participants in randomized clinical trials.

“If the results remain as positive as the current ones, I believe this FMD will represent the first safe and effective intervention to promote positive changes associated with longevity and health span, which can be recommended by a physician,” Longo said.

And in case you’re wondering, the diet consists of these simple directions:

Day one of the diet:

  • Eat 10 percent protein, 56 percent fat and 34 percent carbohydrate, making 1,090 calories

Days two to five of the diet:

  • Nine percent protein, 44 percent fat and 47 percent carbohydrate making 725 calories
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