There’s a strange 5-day-a-month diet designed to slow aging — and it might actually work

“When most people pick a diet, they’re hoping they can trim a few inches off their waistlines.

But there’s at least one diet out there that may be able to transform your health in different and more permanent ways.

There’s evidence, at least a bit of it, that drastically cutting calories and eating a specific way five days out of the month may actually slow the effects of aging and make people less likely to suffer from illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.


Steak frites is allowed on this diet’s menu, it seems — at least, for most of the month.

While most of what we know about the long-term effects of such eating plans comes from animal studies, researchers think that this diet — called the fasting mimicking diet (FMD) — could transform the body.

Peter Bowes, who participated in a study of FMD, explains in a story written for Mosaic that instead of thinking of it as just a “diet,” researchers studying it “prefer to see it as an investment in the future. It could, they say, start a regenerative process that will lead to improved health and longer life. If the theory stands, I could enjoy a lower risk of cancer, a strengthened immune system, improved cognitive ability and little to no chance of contracting diabetes.”

(People do lose weight on the diet too, but that’s less important than these other factors.)

The diet itself is remarkably simple.

For five consecutive days each month, participants drastically limit their caloric intake (hence, “fasting mimicking”) by up to two-thirds. The first day they’d consume 1,090 calories (10% protein, 56% fat, 34% carbohydrate), and for days two through five they’d consume just 725 calories (9% protein, 44% fat, 47% carbohydrate). Most of those carbohydrates came in the form of vegetables.

That’s not easy. Bowes writes that many participants experienced profound headaches and dehydration. Mentally, he says he alternated between exhaustion and an alert sense of clear-mindedness.

But for the remaining 25 days of the month, study participants ate whatever they normally would.

Researchers have long been fascinated by the health benefits associated with temporary fasting — the idea behind this diet is to get those benefits without having to do something quite so drastic.


In the study, participants followed the regimen for three months straight. Valter Longo, a professor of gerontology and biological science and the director of the USC Longevity Institute, told Bowes that he and the other researchers behind the study believe most people would reap its benefits by doing the diet three or four times a year.

And the initial benefits reported by the study were pretty remarkable. The number of people on the diet was small — only 19 — but the effects were significant. Participants experienced a drop in a growth hormone that made their bodies more sensitive to insulin and better able to control blood sugar. This persisted after the study. Weight loss was maintained too.

Researchers have studied people who naturally have low levels of this growth hormone (but who have a form of dwarfism) and have found that they have shockingly low rates of cancer and diabetes, even if they are overweight or obese. The idea behind the FMD is to lower levels of this hormone in otherwise healthy people.

Lowering the same growth hormone in mice created the longest-lived lab mice in the world, according to Bowes. And other more extensive studies in mice related to this diet showed changes that led to improved cognitive performance, a stronger immune system, and lower cancer risks. There were no negative side effects.

Much more research is needed, especially in large groups of humans who are followed over many years. Without that, it’s impossible to make any real conclusions about how exactly this diet affects aging.

Yet a diet that might provide the health benefits of fasting while still letting you eat something — and letting you eat normally 25 days a month — is pretty intriguing. And the promising research so far suggests that it’s worth studying further.”



Here’s what magic mushrooms do to your body and mind

There’s evidence that tripping on magic mushrooms could actually free the mind.

Several small studies have linked the psychoactive ingredient in shrooms (which are illegal) with several purported health benefits, including the potential to help relieve anxiety and depression. But, as with any drug, shrooms also come with risks. And because they’re classified as Schedule 1 – meaning they have “no accepted medical use” – it’s been pretty tough for scientists to tease out exactly what they can and can’t do.

Here are a few of the ways we know shrooms can affect your brain and body:


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Scientists are one step closer to building a giant detector in space that will listen to the fabric of the universe

What could be more awesome than detecting something never detected before, making one of the most monumental discoveries in physics, andconfirming Albert Einstein’s 100-year-old predictions?

Detecting that same thing in space.


On Tuesday, at a press conference at the European Space Astronomy Center, scientists announced that they’re one step closer to building a giant detector in space called the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) that will be able to detect ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves.

You’ve probably heard of the Earth-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which changed history when it first detected these gravitational waves in September. While LIGO can spot what’s produced by stars exploding and black holes colliding, LISA will be able to detect gravitational waves that are made when entire galaxies collide. And this would help us better understand how galaxies form and evolve.

Studying the universe in gravity could allow us to see as far back in time as the big bang, NASA scientist Charles Dunn told Business Insider. “It’s like opening a new window,” Oliver Jennrich, ESA deputy project scientist, told Business Insider. “All of a sudden we learn about things we had no clue existed.”

The mission is a collaboration between many institutions, including the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.

A soundtrack to the universe.

gravitational waves
Simulation of merging black holes showing gravitational waves.

What we are able to see with light only makes up .4% of the universe. The rest of the universe is invisible. We only know it exists because it generates gravity.

Gravity is currently the least understood force in physics. But thanks to that monumental September discovery we know that extreme events in the universe can create gravitational waves.

When you toss a pebble into a pond, it creates ripples on the surface that spread out, getting fainter as they get further from where the pebble smacked into the water. Gravitational waves do something similar to the fabric of space and time.

It’s these waves, or ripples, that scientists are now trying to spot in space. Doing so would let us listen, in a sense, to that 99.6% of the universe that we can never see.

It’s more or less like you’re walking in a jungle and you can’t hear the sound.

“Without sound you wouldn’t detect all the life in the jungle,” Stefano Vitale, LTP Principal Investigator, told Business Insider. “When you turn on the sound you can recognize the sources — objects you can’t see because they’re hidden in the jungle. Looking at a gravitational wave is … like adding the soundtrack to the universe because you see things you cannot see with light.”

Free Fallin’

LIGO has made huge strides in helping to detect smaller events of objects close to the mass of our sun. But what about the really big stuff, like the collision of supermassive black holes millions of times the mass of our sun at the center of galaxies?

This is where LISA comes in. To detect things like these, whatever detection system scientists are using must be free from seismic noise from things like Earth moving around, trucks driving, and people walking by.

In that vein, LISA will use a series of tiny 4.6-centimeter gold-platinum cubes, launched into space to get them into a state of near perfect free fall and influenced by nothing other than the sheer force of gravity.

So far, their results have been far better than expected.

“In some peoples minds, what we were trying to do was impossible,” Paul McNamara, ESA’s LISA Pathfinder project scientist, told Business Insider. “But straight out of the box, on day one, it worked. Not only have we achieved it, we achieved way beyond what asked for.”

LISA will be comprised of a triangle of three spacecrafts millions of miles apart. Each of them will house two of the tiny gold-platinum cubes, whose distance will be measured by how long it takes for a laser beam to get from one spacecraft to another.

As a gravitational wave passes through, the geometry of the triangle will change — one arm will get shorter and another will get longer — by about the size of the nucleus of an atom. And this miniscule change is what the scientists will be measuring.

“These events emit more gravitational waves than all the stars and galaxies and everything in the universe combined,” McNamara said. “When these two big objects smash together it shakes the entire universe. And we’ll be able to measure that.”