The diet mimics fasting, and only has to be followed for five days a month / Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The diet mimics fasting and only has to be followed for five days a month

A simple five-day diet that mimics fasting can bring a host of health benefits, including cutting the risk of heart disease and cancer and boosting the immune system, American scientists believe.

A team at the University of Southern California has developed the diet, which they call the 'Fasting Mimicking Diet' (FMD), which only needs to be followed for five days a month for dieters to see the effects.

The plan restricts dieters' calorie intake to between one third and a half of normal intake, with the plan focusing heavily on vegetable soups and chamomile tea.

Professor Valter Longo, from the USC Davis School of Gerontology, said: "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."

 

The diet slashes the dieter's calorie intake to around 34 to 54 per cent of normal, with care taken to make sure that the dieter gets suitable amounts of protein, fat and carbohydrate in their diet.

However, the strict regime only lasts for five days, and for the rest of the month, dieters can eat what they like.

The study found that test subjects had decreased levels of the hormone IFG-I, which has been linked to aging and cancer susceptibility.

Within three months of following the diet - only 15 days of dieting in total - test subjects showed they had reduced biomarkers in their bodies linked to ageing, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. They also cut their overall body fat.

Professor Longo said that tests on mice showed that the diet essentially 'tricked' the body into ageing more slowly, while also rejuvenating stem cells.

Despite the seemingly positive effects of the diet, many health experts warn people way from 'trick' diets such as this, instead promoting long-term changes in lifestyle and diet that are considered more effective, and easier to stick to.

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