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A genial Italian in his late 40s, he is professor of gerontology and biological sciences at the University of Southern California, but is also the man behind the revolutionary research that pre-empted the biggest dieting craze in recent years: fasting.

Longo shot to scientific stardom following the 2012 broadcast of the BBC’s Horizon programme Eat, Fast, Live in which presenter Dr Michael Mosley outlined the benefits of fasting based on the scientist’s research.

Watched by 2.5 million viewers hungry for a diet that delivered on every front, including longevity, the content of that documentary resulted in Mosley’s best-selling Fast Diet book, written with Mimi Spencer, and a host of copycat alternatives.

Yet Longo could see that continued, intermittent fasting had its shortfalls.

“Strict fasting is hard for people to stick to and intermittent fasting with low calories is a lot for people to handle,” he says.

“People cheat, they feel it’s too hard.”

And now his research has come up trumps with a far more convenient fasting diet, one that works as well as the weekly version, but that requires you to cut your calorie intake for only five consecutive days yet lose up to half a stone in the process.

Longo describes his latest take on temporary food deprivation as the “fasting-mimicking diet” (FMD).

Even the most reluctant dieter can understand its rules: consume 1,100 calories — roughly what’s provided in a generous serving of chicken breast or salmon with rice and vegetables and a yoghurt — on the first day and about 750 calories — a stir fry made with noodles and chicken, for example — for the next four and you are done.

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A genial Italian in his late 40s, he is professor of gerontology and biological sciences at the University of Southern California, but is also the man behind the revolutionary research that pre-empted the biggest dieting craze in recent years: fasting. Longo shot to scientific stardom following the 2012 broadcast of...