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What is the Evidence in Favor of the Intermittent Fasting Diet?

Fitday Editor

Do you mess up on your healthy eating plan from time to time? You may like the idea of intermittent fasting. Although more research is needed, some research suggests that alternate-day fasting--defined by researchers as consuming only 600 calories or less on fasting days and eating normally on non-fasting days--may be beneficial to your health. We know that calorie restriction for weight loss is beneficial if you are overweight because it helps you lose weight -- decreasing your risk for a plethora of health problems. Soon you may possibly be able to take comfort knowing if you ate something you know you should not have eaten or if you ate more than you should have, you may still obtain the same benefits if you are more strict about your eating the following day.

The 2011 Study

This is the case according to researchers of a study published in "Obesity Reviews: An Official Journal for the International Association for the Study of Obesity" in 2011. In this study people who ate what researchers called 'ad libitum,' which could mean at one's pleasure or as one pleased, for 24 hours and then fasted the next day--consuming 600 calories or less--experienced similar weight loss as those people who restricted their calories by 15 to 60 percent every day. The group that fasted intermittently actually maintained more lean body mass according to study results. Although more research is necessary, this is promising motivation to stay on track even if you mess up one meal or even one day of your healthy eating plan.

Anecdotal Evidence

Dr. Michael Mosley, a medical doctor and British journalist decided to investigate if fasting two days per week would help him live longer. Lower levels of a hormone called Insulin-Like Growth Factor or IG-F is thought by researchers to slow the aging process and there is preliminary research showing caloric restriction lowers IG-F. In an effort to live longer and lose weight, Dr. Michael Mosley fasted for two days every week for 5 weeks. On his fasting days he had a 300-calorie breakfast of scrambled eggs, a small slice of ham, then had fish and vegetables for dinner. He drank lots of tea and water during the day. He ate normally on his non-fasting days--he did not eat any more or less than usual. At the end of the five weeks he concluded that his cholesterol and IG-F improved, plus he felt better and planned on doing this again.

Proceed with Caution

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone and your diet should supply adequate nutrition over the course of a few days. If you plan to try intermittent fasting, remember this is restricting your calories to 600 or less per day so, do so with caution. Speak with your doctor and dietitian especially if you have certain health issues such as diabetes or are on medication, to find out how much you should restrict your calories when trying to lose weight.


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Jamie Yacoub, M.P.H., R.D. is a clinical dietitian with a Master's of Public Health in Nutrition She obtained her Bachelor of Science in clinical nutrition from UC Davis after four years, during which time she participated in internships in several different nutrition environments including Kaiser Permanente and Women, Infants, & Children (W.I.C.). After graduating from UC Davis, she went on to study public health nutrition at Loma Linda University where she obtained her Master's of Public Health in Nutrition. Jamie completed the community nutrition portion of her dietetic internship as an intern for a Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition. She completed both the food service and clinical portions of her dietetic internship at a top 100 hospital in the nation, where she was hired as the only clinical dietitian shortly after. Jamie now works as an outpatient clinical dietitian and is an expert in Medical Nutrition Therapy (M.N.T.) using the Nutrition Care Process (N.C.P.) including past medical history and current laboratory values as a basis of nutrition assessment.

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