According to researchers at University of New South Wales, hungry animals recycle nutrients stored in their cells which meant they need less food to survive and also promote cell repair.
In the wild, this recycling of nutrients allows animals to breed during hard times, promoting survival of the herd unlike animals in laboratory, AAP news agency reported today.
"Wild animals don't often die of cancer and diseases of old age. They tend to die young as a result of environmental hazards and exposure to parasites," said Margo Adler, lead author of a study published in the journal BioEssays.
"People might be able to reap some of the lifespan and anti-cancer benefits from dietary restriction or interventions that mimic its effects," said Adler, evolutionary biologist at the University of New South Wales.
She also endorsed the intermittent fasting concept as made popular by British doctor Michael Mosley's 5:2 diet, a form of intermittent fasting that involves severe calorie restriction for two non-consecutive days a week and normal eating on the other five days.
"The 5:2 diet is the most promising popular diet around.
"Many of the popular diets are not based in science. But researchers have found that fasting can have long-term benefits similar to dietary restriction," Adler said.
However, people on the 5:2 diet might benefit from reducing their protein intake as well as calories on fasting days.