Fasting Mimicking Diet

On our recent Holistic Holiday cruise a leading vegan cardiologist, Dr. Joel Kahn, gave a talk entitled “The Miracle of Heart Disease Reversal”. Joel is an interesting cardiologist who has been vegan for 41 years and is active in promoting vegan health through his practice and by operating the Green Space Cafe and another vegan restaurant and a vegan food truck in the Detroit area. (Which reminds me of one slide that Dr. Kahn showed. It quoted the head of the American Cardiology Association saying “There are two kinds of cardiologists: vegans and those who have not read the literature” — do you really want a cardiologist who hasn’t read the literature?)

The last ten minutes of Dr. Kahn’s talk were devoted to the restorative and life extending results of Fasting Mimicking Diets (FMDs). His presentation was inspiring and, having been thinking for the last couple of years that I should have another fast (I did a 5 day “water fast” in 2002) I was motivated to try an FMD. Joel indicated that he had been taking an FMD for the last three months and found that it was very beneficial and in particular that it trimmed off some belly fat that was otherwise not disappearing. (Yes. you can have belly fat on a vegan diet!)

A water fast is a fast where you abstain from all food and only drink water for some period of time. Water fasts have been well documented as curing many kinds of ailments, including cancer. The True North Clinic in Santa Rosa CA, provides water fasting to help cure various ailments. Also on our Hollistic Holiday Cruise was Dr. Michael Klapper of True North who gave a number of lectures on plant based diet healing. It was interesting to hear him suggest a water fasting diet to a cruise attendee who was having a number of problems and for whom a whole food plant based diet had not solved the problem. Dr. Klapper suggested that a water based diet might give his immune system an opportunity to reset and thereby deal with his medical issues.

Getting back to FMDs, these provide an opportunity to get many or perhaps more benefits from a fasting process. There are companies who provide ‘kits’ to support the fasting process. One of these is Prolon. To order the FMD kit from Prolon you answer a short questionnaire. I took the questionnaire and I did not meet two of their criteria. My weight/height profile (essentially BMI) was too low and my age too high. They also wanted the kit to be ordered by a health professional. So I decided to go it alone (I had done one water fast a number of years ago and have not trouble going without food for a day or two so I was not too concerned about being supervised). Looking at the Prolon site I determined that an FMD would include a five day diet that allow 1100 calories on day one followed by 700 calories for days 2 through 5. It was indicated that I should not drink alcohol and should skip any exercises I would normally do. Also it was suggested that I should skip caffeinated drinks. There is a photo on the Prolon website which gives some idea of the contents of their diet kit: water based soups and a few other items and I used that to structure my diet for the week.

I have never counted calories so had little feel as to what that meant. I plunged ahead with the attitude I would just eat very little until such time as I could figure out how to count the calories. Since I expected to lose a few pounds I tracked my weight as well as what I ate. I usually do some exercises for about 40 minutes every day. I find they wake me up and so I decided not to skip them. I also am doing a fair bit of digging in my garden and lugging bags of compost around at this time of year and could not really put that on hold for the week. I also usually have a cup of black decaffeinated coffee each day but skipped that on several of the days. The following is my log for the five days.

Day 1:
starting weight 125
first day of fast — anxiety beforehand but feeling good about it now — why not just water fast? — experience (need to research on the internet to get notes from other people who have had an FMD)
did exercises and walk (about 1.5 miles, my usual)
bkfst — 8 oz or so of miso soup – 75
lunch — 1/2 pear and 4 walnuts – 50+100 cals = 150
snack — two cubes of pineapple, 2 oz. pineapple juice, kambucha tea 20 + 0 = 20
supper — bowl of veg broth soup with two sprigs of asparagus and kidney beans plus 1/2 honey oat bar = 75 + 6 + 100 = 181
to bed about 7:30 but to sleep about 8:15 — woke in the night for an hour or so and slept until 6:30
total calories about 425
(note, the calories were calculated on day three)

Day 2:
weight 122 (lost 3 lbs.)
did exercises and walk
bkfst — miso soup with some collards 75 + 11 = 86
snack — kambucha tea – 0 cal
lunch — 1/2 banana, 1/2 pear, 5 walnuts 55 + 50 + 100 = 205
snack — 1/2 cup decaf coffee 2 cals
supper — bowl of vegetable broth soup with some collards and turmeric powder — three small lettuce leaves and 5 olives — 1/2 honey oat bar = 75+ 11 + 2 + 20 +100 = 208
felt pretty good — did some digging in garden, trip to NFP, planted some seeds, worked after supper until about 8 and then to bed
felt bloated after supper and did not sleep well
total calories 500 (note: calories calculated on day 3)

Day 3:
weight 120
exercise but no walk, gardening, more energy, working in evening
late bkfst of two Fastballs and two pieces of pineapple 100 +20
lunch was bowl of thin vegetable broth soup 75
snack — cup of kambucha green tea – 0 cal
snack — small muffin 100
supper — broccoli, sw potato, kidney beans, cauliflower, muffin 200
stomach upset and did not sleep between 1 and 4 am
total 495
Finally on day 3 got around to looking for calorie information using google to find values. I also looked at the packaging for the honey oat bars that I had eaten and realized that each one of the two in a package contained 100 calories, so I decided to make some oat snacks myself — I call them “Fastballs”. They have about 50 calories each.

Day 4:
weight 119.2
no exercise but walk, gardening
although poor sleep still pretty energetic and mind working better.
bkfst 3 Fastballs and decaf, black coffee = 150
lunch bowl of soup = 75
snack muffin and 2 pineapple pieces = 120
supper peas, potato, tomatoes crushed, Fastball =200
total 545

Day 5:
weight 118.5
good sleep, exercise but no walk in morning
bkfst Fastball + 2 strawberries = 58
lunch miso soup + muffin = 175
snack 1/2 pear + 4 walnuts = 150
snack Fastball = 50
supper peas, potato = 100
walk in afternoon — a little gardening — hauling gardening stuff but not much digging — feeling more tired today in spite of good sleep
small supper but drank wine in the evening
total 700

Day 6:
weight 118.5
fast is overover

Related Experience
During the week by day four, partly as a result of the increased energy I was feeling, I finally got around to researching the experience of others with an FMD. Here are three of the articles I enjoyed reading:

  • an article in The Telegraph recording the experience of their science editor, Sarah Knapton trying the Prolon FMD. I was particularly interested to see the positive response to the experience and the statement that she would do it again.
  • This review by Erin van der Meer in Australia is also of the Prolon FMD. She, too, experienced the weight loss, increase in vitality and expressed a commitment to doing it again.
  • “Quantified Bob” (QB)has a website where he gives detailed biometric information on an FMD that he underetook. This report is quite different that the journalistic reports I just listed. Bob has researched the FMD process and he developed his own diet. Before during and after the diet he monitored a number of bio indicators to record his progress, as well as record more qualitative results. It provides a report that is quite technical but also very revealing as to what happened to his body during the fast. One item that interested me was his statement on caloric limits based on body weight (see my further comments below)

Observations and Conclusions

So what was my experience? Here is a quick summary:

  • I had no trouble significantly reducing my caloric intake. That said perhaps my initial targets taken from the Prolon site (1100 calories on day 1 and 700 calories days 2 – 5) were too high. QB suggests that based on information from the Prolon site and patent the caloric intake should be restricted as:
    • Day 1: Total caloric intake of 4.5 to 7 kcal/lb of body weight (10% protein, 56% fat, 34% carbs)
    • Days 2-5: Total caloric intake of 3 to 5 kcal/lb of body weight (9% protein, 44% fat, 47% carbs)

    On that basis my limits should have been 560 – 875 on day one followed by 375 – 625 on subsequent days. I was generally within those limits except on my last day when I went over budget with wine.

  • I ran my diet from Monday through Friday. On a future diet I would start on a Sunday.
  • I experienced increased vitality adding a couple of productive hours to the day after day two.
  • My mind became clearer and I undertook tasks (such as writing this blog) that I had put off for months
  • Like the other reviewers I mention, and like Dr. Kahn, I will repeat this diet. I plan to do so in a months time and then a month after that.
  • I have no way of knowing if I have improved stem cell functioning but can hope so.
  • I did not measure the components of my caloric intake with respect to protein, fat and carbs but will attempt to do that on a future fast
  • I have some hopes that this fast will have allowed my immune and digestive systems to reset. This is something that I hope to measure with the help of my doctor (more on that in a future post)
  • I believe the advantages of the FMD easily outweigh any disruption associated with reducing food intake for 5 days. It is probably a much easier diet for people to follow than a water fasting diet.


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