Fasting-mimicking diet reduces signs of dementia in mice

Cycles of a diet that mimics fasting appear to reduce signs of Alzheimer’s in mice genetically engineered to develop the illness, according to a new USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology-led study.

The study appeared in Cell Reports on Sept. 27.

The researchers, led by Professor Valter Longo in collaboration with Professors Christian Pike and Pinchas Cohen, found that mice that had undergone several cycles of the fasting-mimicking diet showed less Alzheimer’s pathology. The researchers found lower levels of two major hallmarks of the disease: amyloid beta — the primary driver of plaque buildup in the brain — and hyperphosphorylated tau protein, which forms tangles in the brain. They also found that brain inflammation lessened and better performance on cognitive tests compared to the mice that were fed a standard diet.

The fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) is high in unsaturated fats and low in overall calories, protein, and carbohydrates and is designed to mimic the effects of a water-only fast while still providing necessary nutrients. Previous research led by Longo has indicated that brief, periodic FMD cycles are associated with a range of beneficial effects, including the promotion of stem cell regeneration, lessening of chemotherapy side effects, and lowering risk factors for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other age-related diseases in mice and humans.

Promising results in mouse models of Alzheimer’s

Alongside healthy mice, the team investigated two mouse models of Alzheimer’s, E4FAD and 3xTg. During the study, mice were fed the fasting-mimicking diet for 4 or 5 days twice per month and were allowed to eat normally between FMD cycles. In a long-term experiment to see the effects in aged mice, 3xTg mice were placed on the diet for 30 cycles in 15 months. Shorter-term experiments in both 3xTg and E4FAD mice ranged from a single FMD cycle to 12 cycles in 6 months.

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