This type of intermittent fasting may be as beneficial as daily calorie restriction, but easier to stick with, researchers found. A type of intermittent fasting that calls for eating nothing one day, and then whatever a person wants the next, can be done safely for several months and comes with a number of health benefits, a study has found.
Alternate day fasting improved cardiovascular markers, reducing blood pressure and heart rate after four weeks, researchers reported in Cell Metabolism on Tuesday. People who followed the plan for six months also had lower levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides compared to those who ate normally.
Overall, they ate about 37% fewer calories, lost weight and had an “improved fat distribution,” reducing the fat in their trunk and abdomen by about 14% on average.
Researchers saw no adverse effects from alternate day fasting even after six months, concluding the strategy seems to be as beneficial as daily calorie restriction, but easier to stick with.
Humans can easily tolerate skipping food for an entire day, said Dr. Thomas Pieber, one of the study authors and chair of the department of internal medicine at the Medical University of Graz in Austria.
“The truth is that our organism is ready to fast for much longer,” Pieber told TODAY. “Ten thousand or 100,000 years ago, we didn’t have breakfast, lunch and dinner and some cake in-between with our coffee.
“You just have to train your organism to get adjusted to that short-term fasting and after a few days, most people can adjust.”
How it works:
Pieber and his colleagues randomly assigned 60 participants — all healthy, non-overweight adults — to four weeks of either strict alternate-day fasting or to a control group whose members remained on their usual diets.
Alternate day fasting required people to avoid any solid or liquid foods, or any caloric drinks every other day. They could then eat whatever they wanted on the other days. It amounted to 36 hours of fasting and 12 hours of eating.