Natural secrets to longevity

• How switching to plant-based diet ‘cures’ stroke, chronic migraines
•High fat diet, exposure to chemicals drive prostate cancer development
•Exercise increases body’s own ‘cannabis’, reduces chronic inflammation
•Fasting two days weekly helps obese keep off weight with modest results

More researches have found that consuming lots of red or processed meat may raise chance of a stroke — but regularly cooking with olive oil lowers the risk.

Experts who tracked 100,000 people for three decades said results confirmed diets high in fat are not the problem.

Echoing dozens of similar studies, it instead pointed the blame at the specific types of fats consumed.

They found people who ate the most lard, red or processed meat were up to 16 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke than those who ate the least.

The study found people who got most of their fat intake from dairy, like butter and cheese, were not at an increased risk.

Those who often cooked with olive, corn and soybean oils were 12 per cent less likely to have a stroke than those who ate the least amount of these types of fat.

Lead researcher Dr. Fenglei Wang, from the Harvard School of Public Health, United States, said the findings suggest the type of fat people eat is more important for preventing a stroke than how much they eat.

Instead, fat from red and processed meats, as well as non-dairy animal fat, appear to increase the risk of stroke, while dairy and vegetable fat did not seem to increase the likelihood.

Experts have long warned that while red meat — such as beef, lamb and pork — is a good source of protein and vitamins, eating too much may also have health risks.

They believe the high amounts of saturated fat in the meat increases levels of harmful cholesterol, while salt raises blood pressure — both of which increase the risk of having a stroke.

And chemicals found in red meat — that are added during processing or produced when cooking — damage cells which can increase the risk of cancer.

Researchers argued their study is the first to comprehensively analyse how eating different types of fat affects the risk of having a stroke.

Meanwhile, people who live with chronic migraines suffer intense throbbing and pulsing, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting.

Could a plant-based diet, credited with a variety of positive health impacts, also help ease these chronic symptoms?

It might. Researchers in New York, United States, have published a case study of one man with severe chronic migraines who had tried everything to curb them, and then switched to a plant-based diet — loaded with a lot of dark green leafy vegetables.

He quickly found significant relief from the headaches, doctors reported online November 18 in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

“This report suggests that a whole food plant-based diet may offer a safe, effective and permanent treatment for reversing chronic migraine,” wrote a team led by Dr. David Dunaief, who specialises in nutritional medicine and has a private practice in East Setauket, N.Y.

One expert in migraine who wasn’t connected to the study was cautiously optimistic about the findings.

“It is hard to make much from one case report, [but] it does illustrate the importance of all of these non-pharmacological, evidence-based treatments,” said Dr. Noah Rosen. He directs Northwell Health’s Headache Center in Great Neck, N.Y.

As the researchers noted, more than one billion people worldwide have migraines, defined as one-side, pulsating headaches, sometimes with a variety of other symptoms, that last between four and 72 hours.

Some migraines are episodic, meaning they happen fewer than 15 days per month. Others are chronic, with 15 or more migraine days per month plus migraine features on eight days per month.

To be considered successful, migraine treatment must cut the frequency and length of the attacks in half or improve symptoms.

The 60-year-old man whose experiences are detailed in the report had endured severe migraine headaches without aura for more than 12 years. Six months before his clinic referral, his migraines had become chronic, occurring anywhere from 18 to 24 days each month.

He had tried a number of potential fixes, including the prescribed medications zolmitriptan and topiramate. He also cut out potential ‘trigger’ foods, including chocolate, cheese, nuts, caffeine, and dried fruit. Beyond this, the man also tried yoga and meditation to curb the attacks.

None of those interventions had worked. The man described the pain as throbbing, starting suddenly and intensely in the forehead and temple on the left side of his head. His migraines usually lasted 72 hours and also included sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting. His pain severity was 10 to 12 out of a scale of 10.

He didn’t have high levels of systemic inflammation but had a normal level of beta carotene in his blood, possibly because he ate sweet potatoes daily.

Sweet potatoes are relatively low in food nutrients known as carotenoids, which carry anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, the authors explained.

Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and watercress do contain high levels of carotenoids, however.

So, Rosen’s team advised the man to adopt the Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday (LIFE) diet. It’s a nutrient-dense, whole food, plant-based diet. The regimen advocates eating at least five ounces by weight of raw or cooked dark green leafy vegetables every day, drinking one 32-ounce daily green LIFE smoothie, and limiting intake of whole grains, starchy vegetables, oils, and animal protein, particularly dairy and red meat.

After two months on the diet, the man said his migraines had been dramatically reduced — to just one migraine day per month, and even that headache was less severe.

At the same time, his blood tests showed a substantial rise in beta-carotene levels.

Soon, the man stopped taking all his migraine meds. His migraines stopped completely after three months and haven’t returned in seven 1/2 years.

The man was allergic, and previously published research suggests that better control of allergies may also lead to fewer migraine headaches. In this case, the man’s allergy symptoms also improved — to the point that he no longer needed to use seasonal medication.

He was also Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)-positive, and HIV has been linked to a heightened risk of migraines. It is possible that the man’s HIV status and antiretroviral drugs had contributed to his symptoms, the authors said, though it wasn’t possible to study this further without stopping the antiretroviral treatment.

“While this report describes one very adherent patient who had a remarkable response, the LIFE diet has reduced migraine frequency within three months in several additional patients,” Dunaief added.

For his part, Rosen said “the role of proper diet and migraine has had a few studies demonstrating benefit.”

Being properly hydrated, eating a healthy “low-glycemic” diet and getting lots of omega 3 fatty acids (such as are found in oily fish) have all been shown to have a positive effect on curbing migraines, he said.

Beyond food, getting good sleep, regular exercise and psychological interventions such as “cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness and progressive muscle relaxation” may also help, Rosen said.

Also, although evidence points to some gains in healthspan and lifespan with intermittent fasting, protein restriction and other “anti-ageing” diets, most findings come from animals and other organisms studied in a laboratory.

It becomes less clear how the benefits translate to extending human longevity, in part because weight loss from these diets also can translate to health benefits that could help people live longer.

Despite limited evidence in humans, there is some promise: studies reveal some common mechanisms across the different diets that could someday produce more robust and precise therapies to combat the effects of ageing.

With the growing popularity of anti-aging diets and multiple options also comes some confusion. With that in mind, senior study author Matt Kaerberlein, PhD, and his colleagues reviewed the evidence for diets that claim anti-aging effects compared to a standard caloric restriction approach.

Their Review paper titled “Antiaging diets: Separating fact from fiction” was published online this week in the journal Science.

The investigators looked at ketogenic diets, intermittent fasting, fasting-mimicking diets, time-restricted feeding and protein restriction, as well as diets that restrict specific amino acids – methionine, tryptophan or branched chain amino acids.

“Over the past several years, there has been a mainstream popularization of many dietary interventions [claiming] to impact the aging process based on studies in laboratory animals,” Kaerberlein tells Medscape Medical News.

“Because these diets are being recommended to the general public, we felt it was important to perform an unbiased evaluation of the evidence supporting their impact on aging in preclinical and clinical studies,” says Kaerberlein, who is also a professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and Director of the Healthy Aging and Longevity Research Institute at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, United States.

“I found the article to be a very comprehensive, scoping review of the various antiaging diet methods and the results,” Lauri Wright, PhD, chair of the Department of Nutrition & Dietetics and Director of the Center for Nutrition & Food Security at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, told Medscape Medical News.

“It was an extremely accurate snapshot, presenting the results while acknowledging the complexities of this type of research and the gaps in knowledge,” says Wright, who is also a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly known as the American Dietetic Association.

Kaerberlein and colleagues also address several common fictions regarding anti-ageing diet strategies, including:

Caloric restriction always ‘works.’ Although there are many reports of lifespan and healthspan extension from caloric restriction, there are also multiple published examples in which caloric restriction did not extend lifespan, including studies in mice and rhesus monkeys.

Individual macronutrients are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for aging. A focus only on macronutrients like protein or carbohydrates might miss the big picture. Dietary composition, total caloric intake, and feeding interval all have the potential to affect longevity and healthspan.

Caloric restriction extends lifespan only by preventing cancer. Although multiple rodent studies report anticancer effects, caloric restriction also delays age-related declines in immune, brain, heart, muscle, kidney, reproductive and other tissues.

As for any unexpected findings, “most surprising to me was how weak the actual evidence for benefits on lifespan and healthspan is in mice for many of these interventions once caloric restriction is controlled for,” Kaerberlein says.

In other words, most of the laboratory studies on intermittent fasting, protein restriction or time-restricted feeding also significantly restricted calories the animals consumed. That study design makes it more difficult to separate out any anti-aging effects from gains associated with a 20 per cent to 40 per cent decrease in overall calories.

But when researchers run experiments under “isocaloric conditions,” where calorie counts remain constant, “the effects are generally quite small or non-existent,” Kaerberlein says.

“The one exception among the dietary interventions we examined may be methionine restriction and branched chain amino acid restriction, but those dietary strategies haven’t been studied as extensively in laboratory animals and are, at this point, not practical to implement in people.”

Another surprise for Kaerberlein “was the large impact of genetic background on outcomes in pre-clinical dietary intervention studies, and the fact that this has been largely ignored.” A lot of these studies were done in inbred lines of mice, for example.

But other research in organisms with greater genetic diversity – including wild mice, fruit flies and budding yeast – show that “a subset of genetic backgrounds show no response in terms of lifespan and some have their lifespan shortened,” he says.

“While it’s not surprising that genotype and environment would both influence individual response to a particular dietary intervention, we do think it is surprising that an intervention that is often presented in reviews of the scientific literature and in books written for the general public as universally beneficial is actually harmful in about 25 per cent of the genetic backgrounds tested.”

The researchers also caution people against going too far.

“Although many people tend to assume that dietary interventions are safe, the biological effects of these antiaging diets are profound and generally less specific than pharmacological interventions,” the authors wrote. “Like any drug, dietary interventions have a dose-response profile and at high enough ‘doses’ will lead to substantial adverse effects and ultimately death.”

The loss of libido and sexual dysfunction, psychological problems, chronic fatigue, poor sleep, muscle weakness, susceptibility to infection, impaired wound healing, and social isolation are among the potential side effects of caloric-restriction-like diets, the researchers said.

“In the case of protein restriction, there is also evidence that it may be harmful, at least for all-cause mortality, in older adults,” Kaerberlein says, referring to evidence for people older than 65.

More research into adverse effects, particularly over the long-term, is warranted.

“All of these dietary strategies have multiple side effects – even hunger is a side effect – that, as far as we could find, have not been carefully evaluated in laboratory animals or in people,” Kaerberlein says.

The overall advice for now is “caveat emptor” or “buyer beware” when it comes to these and other diets, Kaerberlein says.

“There’s not yet a lot of evidence in preclinical or clinical studies that any of these diets will significantly move the needle in terms of healthy longevity for people who aren’t overweight and exercise moderately.”

That said, “certainly, if people are overweight, then some of these diets can be helpful in getting down to a healthy weight, especially if combined with exercise,” he says. “And that’s obviously a good thing.”

Despite most of the evidence for anti-ageing diets coming from non-human studies, “I believe that [the review] still demonstrates the role of diet in aging healthfully,” Wright says.

“While we don’t have enough evidence for some of the extremes in diets that were discussed, we do have evidence that shows eating patterns that support not only longevity but quality aging,” she continues.

The recommendations may sound familiar: maintain a healthy body weight, consume an abundance of vegetables and fruits, choose whole grains while avoiding added sugars, eat lean proteins including fish and more plant-proteins such as beans, and choose unsaturated fats while avoiding saturated and trans fats.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently updated its guidance with 10 evidence-based diet recommendations, which overlap in terms of recommending more whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables and minimizing added sugars.

The AHA guidance also recognizes the challenges from environmental and other impediments to healthy nutrition, including structural racism, segregated neighborhoods and areas where unhealthy choices are the default option for many people.

Moving forward, “I hope the research – and particularly the way it is portrayed in literature reviews and the public domain – becomes a bit more rigorous, but I’m honestly not holding my breath,” Kaerberlein says.

He would like to see research move toward more personaliSed nutrition.

“I hope we see progress in understanding how individual genotype and environment impact the response to different dietary interventions in people toward the goal of optimizing health benefits at the individual level,” Kaerberlein says.

Another avenue of future work “where I think we will definitely continue to make progress,” he says, is research into the mechanisms behind how these diets work in animals and other organisms that could directly translate into beneficial effects on aging in people.

“We highlighted the mTOR pathway or network in our review and I think that’s where the best bets are at,” he says, “but there’s a lot to learn still and perhaps other nodes in that network or elsewhere that can be tweaked to get bigger benefits with lower risk of side effects.”

Meanwhile, the global rise in the red and processed meat trade over the past 30 years is linked to a sharp increase in diet related ill health, with the impact greatest in Northern and Eastern Europe and the island nations of the Caribbean and Oceania, finds an analysis published in the open access journal BMJ Global Health.

Health policies should be integrated with agricultural and trade policies among importing and exporting nations as a matter of urgency, to stave off further personal and societal costs, say the researchers.

Among continuous urbanisation and income growth, the global red and processed meat trade has risen exponentially to meet demand. This trend has implications for the environment because of the impact it has on land use and biodiversity loss.

And high red and processed meat consumption is linked to a heightened risk of non-communicable diseases, particularly bowel cancer, diabetes, and coronary artery heart disease.

The researchers wanted to find out what impact the red and processed meat trade might be having on diet-related non-communicable disease trends and which countries might be particularly vulnerable.

They drew on data on meat production and trade from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) from 1993 to 2018 for 154 countries, focusing on 14 red meat items derived from beef, pork, lamb and goat, and six processed primarily beef and pork items, preserved by smoking, salting, curing, or chemicals.

They then calculated the proportions of deaths and years of life lived with disability (DALYs) attributable to diet as a result of bowel cancer, type 2 diabetes, and coronary artery heart disease among those aged 25 and over in each country.

The global red and processed meat trade increased by more than 148 per cent from 10 metric tonnes in 1993–5 to nearly 25 metric tonnes in 2016–18.

While the number of net exporting countries fell from 33 in 1993–5 to 26 in 2016–18, net importing countries rose from 121 to 128.

Developed countries in Europe accounted for half of total red and processed meat exports in 1993–95 and 2016–18. But developing countries in South America, such as Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay made up nearly 10 per cent in 2016–18, up from around five per cent in 1993–5.

Developing countries also increased their meat imports by 342.5 per cent from 2 metric tonnes in 1993–5 to nearly 9 metric tonnes in 2016–18; developed countries doubled theirs from 8 metric tonnes to 16.

Diet related attributable death and DALY rates associated with the global meat trade rose in three quarters of the 154 countries between 1993-5 and 2016-18.

Worldwide, the researchers calculated that increases in red and processed meat consumption, aligned to increases in trade, accounted for 10,898 attributable deaths in 2016–18, an increase of nearly 75 per cent on the figures for 1993-5.

The global meat trade contributed to increases of 55 per cent and 71 per cent, respectively, in attributable deaths and DALYs in developed countries between 1993-5 and 2016-18.

The equivalent figures in developing countries were significantly higher: 137 per cent and 140 per cent, respectively, largely as a result of increased demand for meat, prompted by rapid urbanisation and income growth, suggest the researchers.

Between 1993– 2018, island nations in the Caribbean and Oceania and countries in Northern and Eastern Europe became particularly vulnerable to diet-related disease and deaths associated with large meat imports.

The island nations have limited land for meat production, so depend heavily on meat imports, while many of the European countries, such as Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia, benefited from regional trade agreements and tariff exemptions after joining the European Union in 2003-4, which accelerated meat imports, explain the researchers.

In 1993–5, the top 10 countries with the highest proportion of deaths attributable to red meat consumption included Tonga, United Arab Emirates, Barbados, Fiji, Gabon, Bahamas, Greece, Malta, Brunei and Saint Lucia.

In 2016–2018, the top 10 included The Netherlands, Bahamas, Tonga, Denmark, Antigua and Barbuda, Seychelles, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Croatia and Greece. The meat trade in these countries accounted for more than seven per cent of all deaths attributable to diets high in both red and processed meat in 2016-18.

The trends in attributable DALYs more or less mirrored those for attributable deaths.

Attributable death and DALY rates associated with global meat trade fell in 34 countries between 1993–5 and 2016–18. But this was partly due to population growth exceeding increases in meat imports in 24 countries, while domestic meat production increased in 19.

In more than a half of these countries (20) the absolute number of diet-related deaths and DALYs rose in tandem with increased meat consumption between 1993-5 and 2016-18.

And some countries, including Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Germany increasingly acted as net meat exporters, changing their land use, with consequent biodiversity loss.

This is an observational study, and as such, can’t establish cause. And the researchers acknowledge that many countries import and process red meat items for export, which may have skewed their findings.

Nevertheless, they conclude: “This study shows that global increases in red and processed meat trade contribute to the abrupt increase of diet-related [non-communicable diseases]… Future interventions need to urgently integrate health policies with agricultural and trade policies by cooperating between responsible exporting and importing countries.”

Meanwhile, new research in mice suggests that the combination of a high fat diet and exposure to so-called forever chemicals may drive prostate cancer development.

According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, researchers examined the effect of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure and a high fat diet on prostate cells in both mouse and cell culture models.

Male mice that the team had injected with malignant prostate cancer cells had a faster tumor growth rate when they ate a high fat diet and had exposure to PFAS.

On exposure to PFAS, tumour-forming prostate cells in a cell culture replicated nearly three times as much.

This mouse-and-cell-culture study may influence future recommendations from healthcare professionals to beware of PFAS-containing items, especially for males.

Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer in males and the fourth most common type overall, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. A reported 1.3 million new cases of prostate cancer occurred worldwide in 2018.

Previous research found that dietary fat in the typical Western diet can help prostate cancer tumors spread. Now, a new study from researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Illinois at Chicago has found that a high fat diet and increased exposure to PFAS can speed up the development of prostate tumours.

PFAS are a wide group of human-made chemicals specially designed to resist grease, oil, water, and heat. Manufacturers usually use a combination of these chemicals as a stain-repellant coating on food packaging and cooking equipment. PFAS can sometimes be present in: nonstick coatings on pots and pans, fast food wrappers and containers, stain- and water-resistant carpeting and other fabrics, firefighting foam and heat-resistant protective gear and paints and sealants.

PFAS — nicknamed forever chemicals because they do not decompose — can potentially contaminate the surrounding soil and water when people discard them. This contamination can put people at risk of PFAS exposure. A study last year found that PFAS may contaminate the drinking water of 200 million people in the United States.

People can get exposure to PFAS by: drinking contaminated water, eating fish that were living in contaminated water, eating food covered in paper and other packaging containing PFAS and coming into contact with contaminated soil or dust.

PFAS occupational hazards exist for those involved in the making of PFAS-containing products, as well as firefighters exposed to PFAS in their protective gear and firefighting foam.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, researchers are still not clear on the total effect of PFAS exposure on the body. However, past research suggests that PFAS exposure may result in: higher cancer risk, higher levels of cholesterol, immune system issues and interference with hormones and some major organs, such as the liver.

For the study, Dr. Zeynep Madak-Erdogan, associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and her research team used a mouse model.

They fed some of the male mice a high fat diet similar to a typical Western diet — also known as the Standard American Diet — which past research has associated with obesity and neurodegenerative issues. The others ate a control diet.

At 10 days after the diets started, the researchers injected the mice with prostate cancer epithelial cells. They then began orally administering the PFAS chemical perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) to some of the mice seven days per week.

Also as part of the study, research team members exposed both non-tumor-forming and tumor-forming human prostate cells suspended in growth media to varying levels of PFOS or perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) — another member of the PFAS chemical family — for two days.

After two days, researchers reportedly found that the tumor-forming prostate cells exposed to PFOS reproduced at triple the rate of those not exposed to PFBS.

In regards to the mouse model, after 40 days, the researchers observed an increase in tumor volume in mice exposed to either PFOS or a high fat diet. However, the fastest tumor growth rate reportedly occurred in mice exposed to a combination of PFOS and a high fat diet.

Based on their research, Dr. Madak-Erdogan and her colleagues believe that PFAS work with dietary fat to switch on a protein-coding gene called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha. This causes cells to metabolize in such a way that increases the carcinogenic risk in benign prostate cells and also increases tumor development in malignant prostate cells.

Dr. Madak-Erdogan told Medical News Today that her team’s findings will affect future recommendations from healthcare professionals to beware of PFAS-containing items, especially for men. “Our studies provide a basis to reduce PFAS exposure through food wrapping, particularly those used for fast foods or food with high fat content, or occupational exposures,” she added.

Meanwhile, exercise increases the body’s own cannabis-like substances, which in turn helps reduce inflammation and could potentially help treat certain conditions such as arthritis, cancer and heart disease.

In a new study, published in Gut Microbes, experts from the University of Nottingham found that exercise intervention in people with arthritis, did not just reduce their pain, but it also lowered the levels of inflammatory substances (called cytokines). It also increased levels of cannabis-like substances produced by their own bodies, called endocannabinoids. Interestingly, the way exercise resulted in these changes was by altering the gut microbes.

Exercise is known to decrease chronic inflammation, which in turn causes many diseases including cancer, arthritis and heart disease, but little is known as to how it reduces inflammation.

A group of scientists, led by Professor Ana Valdes from the School of Medicine at the University, tested 78 people with arthritis. Thirty-eight of them carried out 15 minutes of muscle strengthening exercises every day for six weeks, and 40 did nothing.

At the end of the study, participants who did the exercise intervention had not only reduced their pain, but they also had more microbes in their guts of the kind that produce anti-inflammatory substances, lower levels of cytokines and higher levels of endocannabinoids.

The increase in endocannabinoids was strongly linked to changes in the gut microbes and anti-inflammatory substances produced by gut microbes called SCFAS. In fact, at least one third of the anti-inflammatory effects of the gut microbiome was due to the increase in endocannabinoids.

Doctor Amrita Vijay, a Research Fellow in the School of Medicine and first author of the paper, said: “Our study clearly shows that exercise increases the body’s own cannabis-type substances. Which can have a positive impact on many conditions.

“As interest in cannabidiol oil and other supplements increases, it is important to know that simple lifestyle interventions like exercise can modulate endocannabinoids.”

Meanwhile, the 5:2 diet, a type of intermittent fasting, is no more effective than traditional approaches to weight loss, according to what researchers said was the first study of the regimen in a “real-life setting.”

However, the researchers found that the approach, which involves two days of heavily restricting calories (500 calories for women, 600 calories for men) and five days of sensible eating, was rated more highly by the obese people in the study because it was easy to follow.

“Here we’ve been able to provide the first results on the effectiveness of simple 5:2 diet advice in a real-life setting. We found that although the 5:2 diet wasn’t superior to traditional approaches in terms of weight loss, users preferred this approach as it was simpler and more attractive,” said Katie Myers Smith, a chartered health psychologist and senior research fellow at Queen Mary University of London, in a news statement.

She was an author of the study that published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Doctors may want to consider including the 5:2 diet as part of their standard weight management advice to patients, she said.

The study involved 300 obese people in Tower Hamlets, an inner city area of high deprivation in London. The participants either followed the 5:2 regimen or a more conventional approach to losing weight that stressed eating more vegetables and whole-grain foods, cutting out foods high in sugar and fat, eating smaller portions and exercise.

The results of both approaches were very similar and “modest,” the study said.
At six months, those using the 5:2 diet had lost, on average, 1.8 kilogrammes (four pounds) compared to 1.7 kilogrammes (3.7 pounds) on the standard diet advice. At 12 months, those figures were 1.9 kilogrammes (4.2 pounds) and 1.8 kilogrammes (four pounds), respectively.

The 5:2 diet was rated more highly by the obese people in a new study because it was easy to follow.

Some 18 per cent of 5:2 dieters had lost at least five per cent of their body weight after one year compared to 15 per cent using the conventional approach.
Of the group following the 5:2 diet, half attended six group support sessions for the first six weeks after the initial information session. However, its impact of the group support diminished over time, the study found.

Participants were positive about the different weight loss approaches, but those on the 5:2 diet were more likely to recommend it to others and said they were more likely to continue with the approach.

The study was a randomized control trial, regarded as the most rigorous kind of research, and while the number of participants was larger than most previous studies of intermittent fasting, the authors said “some findings of borderline significance could have become clearer if the sample size was larger.”
The people following the conventional weight loss guidance were also more likely to try other strategies such as Weight Watchers, Slimming World or other diets. This factor could have masked the effects, but it would not have been ethical or practical to stop participants trying alternative approaches, the study authors said.

Some experts think that alternating between fasting and eating can improve cellular health by triggering metabolic switching.

In metabolic switching, cells use up their fuel stores and convert fat to energy — “flipping a switch” from fat storing to fat saving. Intermittent fasting can reduce blood pressure, aid in weight loss, and improve longevity, a review of past animal and human studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests.

The method is not appropriate for everyone, however, particularly pregnant women and those with medical conditions such as diabetes or eating disorders.

Meanwhile, some studies have suggested that a Mediterranean diet can improve cognitive function. This diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, olive oil and fish, with small amounts of dairy, eggs, and red meat, together with a moderate amount of red wine.

Recent research showed that a Mediterranean diet has associations with improved cognitive functioning and slowed the progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.

An alternative to the Mediterranean diet is the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). The diet is similar but focuses on green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine.

This diet highlights the importance of foods and nutrients that have an association with dementia prevention.