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US scientists found that starvation on alternate days can make people live longer by boosting brain power and shedding weight.

The research team said that fasting on and off can boost brain power and help to lose weight at the same time.

The National Institutes for Aging said their research was based on giving animals the bare minimum of calories required to keep them alive and results showed they lived up to twice as long.

The diet has since been tested on humans and appears to protect the heart, circulatory system and brain against age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s.

“Dietery energy restriction extends lifespan and protects the brain and cardiovascular system against age-related disease,” said Mark Mattson, head of the laboratory of neurosciences at the NIA and professor of neuroscience at John Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“We have found that dietary energy restriction, particularly when administered in intermittent bouts of major caloric restriction, such as alternative day fasting, activates cellular stress response pathways in neurones,” Prof. Mark Mattson said to the Sunday Times.

In one set of experiments, a group of mice were only fed on alternate days while others were allowed to eat daily.

Both groups were given unlimited access to food on the days they were allowed to eat and eventually consumed the same amount of calories.

Prof. Mark Mattson said he found the mice fed on alternate days were more sensitive to insulin and needed to produce less of it.

High levels of the hormone, which is produced to control sugar levels after a meal or snack, are usually associated with lower brain power and are at a higher risk of diabetes.

The brains from both sets of rodents were then examined and Prof. Mark Mattson said he found the calorie restricted diets appeared to improve the function of brain synapses.

These are the junctions between brain cells which promote the generation of new cells and make them more resistant to stress.

Previous research has found that starving yourself for a few days can help in the fight against cancer.

Scientists found that depriving healthy cells of the food they need sends them into a survival mode, making them highly resistant to stress and damage caused from chemotherapy.

Experts have described the behavior similar to animals waiting out the winter by hibernating.

Scientists from John Hopkins University in Baltimore have designed a new, leap-year-free calendar, which makes birthdays, holidays and Christmas to fall on the same day every year.

The new calendar proposed by mathematicians and economists is different from the Gregorian calendar, also known as the Christian calendar, that is used by the western world.

The Gregorian calendar, which is a reform of the old Julian calendar, was first introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.

In the leap-year-free calendar, each year would be 364 days long, and every 5 or 6 years there would be a week-long “mini-month” to keep the calendar in tune with the solar cycle, instead of using leap years.

The sheer predictability would save the economy billions – and could save money for individuals, too, as interest calculations couldn’t be “rounded up” by lenders.

Unlike previous ideas for “calendar reform”, this one does keep the seven-day working week intact.

Under the Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, if Christmas fell on a Sunday in 2012 it would also fall on a Sunday in 2013, 2014 and beyond.

In addition, under the new calendar September would have 31 days as would March, June and December. All the rest would have 30.

Dr. Richard Henry said: “Our plan offers a stable calendar that is absolutely identical from year to year and which allows the permanent, rational planning of annual activities, from school to work holidays.”

“Think about how much time and effort are expended each year in redesigning the calendar of every single organization in the world and it becomes obvious our calendar would make life much simpler and would have noteworthy benefits.”

Among the practical advantages would be the convenience afforded by birthdays and holidays falling on the same day of the week every year.

But the economic benefits are even more profound, according to co-researcher Dr. Steve Hanke, an applied economist – including monetary policy.

Dr. Steve Hanke said: “Our calendar would simplify financial calculations and eliminate what we call the <<rip off>> factor.

“Determining how much interest accrues on mortgages, bonds, forward rate agreements, swaps and others, day counts are required.

“Our current calendar is full of anomalies that have led to the establishment of a wide range of conventions that attempt to simplify interest calculations.

“Our proposed permanent calendar has a predictable 91-day quarterly pattern of two months of 30 days and a third month of 31 days, which does away with the need for artificial day count conventions.”

The researchers say their calendar is an improvement on the dozens of rival reform calendars proffered by individuals and institutions over the last century.

Dr. Richard Henry said: “Attempts at reform have failed in the past because all of the major ones have involved breaking the seven-day cycle of the week, which is not acceptable to many people because it violates the Fourth Commandment about keeping the Sabbath Day.

“Our version never breaks that cycle.”

Dr. Richard Henry claims his team’s version is far more convenient, sensible and easier to use than the current Gregorian calendar which has been in place for four centuries – ever since 1582, when Pope Gregory altered a calendar that was instituted in 46 BC by Julius Caesar.

The calendars used around the world:

The Gregorian calendar serves as the most common international method by which time is organized in the west. It regulates the ceremonial cycle of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, although its original purpose was ecclesiastical.

The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar for Israel and the Jewish faith. The beginning of each month is determined by a new moon (molad). By tradition, days of the week marked from sunset to sunset are designated by number, with only the seventh day, Sabbath, having a specific name. The Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday. Each year consists of twelve or thirteen months, with months consisting of 29 or 30 days.

The Islamic calendar is entirely lunar and consists of twelve alternating months of 30 and 29 days, with the final 29 day-month extended to 30 days during leap years. Leap years follow a 30 year cycle. The calendar begins on Friday, July 16th, 622 C.E. marking the day of the Prophet Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina, with sunset on the preceding day reckoned as the first day of the first month of year 1 – A.H.—’Anno Hegiræ’—the Arabic word for ‘separate’.

The Chinese calendar is lunisolar and so based on calculations of the positions of the sun and moon. Months of 29 or 30 days begin on days of astronomical new moons, with an extra month added every two or three years. Although the Gregorian calendar is used in the Peoples’ Republic of China, for administrative purposes, the traditional one is used for setting festival dates and timing agricultural activities in the countryside.

The modern Persian calendar was adopted in 1925, taking over a traditional calendar dating from the eleventh century. The calendar consists of 12 months, the first six of which are 31 days, the next five 30 days, and the final month 29 days in a normal year and 30 days in a leap year. Each year begins on the day in which the March equinox occurs. Days begin at midnight in the standard time zone.