A powerful example of the regenerative power of fasting was demonstrated in a recent study, that showed a fasting-mimicking diet — characterized by periods of feast and famine — can reverse diabetes and actually regenerate your pancreas. The experiment, conducted on mice, was led by Valter Longo, Ph.D., professor of gerontology and biological sciences and director of the USC Longevity Institute.
What they discovered was that by starving and refeeding the animals in cycles, insulinproducing beta cells were generated, resembling that observed during pancreatic development. Beta cells detect sugar in your blood and release insulin if blood sugar levels get too high. As a side effect of restoring pancreatic function, diabetic symptoms were also reversed. Insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis were restored in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes models. According to Longo:
"Our conclusion is by pushing the mice into an extreme state and then bringing them back — by starving them and then feeding them again —the cells in the pancreas are triggered to use some kind of developmental reprogramming that rebuilds the part of the organ that's no longer functioning ...
Medically, these findings have the potential to be very important because we've shown — at least in mouse models — that you can use diet to reverse the symptoms of diabetes. Scientifically, the findings are perhaps even more important because we've shown you can use diet to reprogram cells without having to make any genetic alterations."
The fasting-mimicking diet developed by Longo involves restricting your calories to 75 percent less than your normal calories per day for five days each month. This approach greatly improves compliance, as many find a fiveday, wateronly fast to be too difficult. During these five days of calorie restriction, it's important to select foods low in carbohydrates, low in protein and high in healthy fats.
The rest of the month, you are free to eat whatever you want. The goal is to mimic periods of feast and famine. However, while it may sound simple enough, Longo is quick to suggest this particular diet is best undertaken with medical guidance, as it's far more sophisticated than most people realize. You can learn more about the fasting-mimicking diet here.