Alternate-day Fasting

Perhaps the ultimate diet plan, intermittent fasting drops pounds. But that’s just for starters

9007147_sBy Elizabeth Barker

An increasingly trendy approach to weight loss, the dietary regimen known as “intermittent fasting” may help fend off major health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. That’s the finding of a new report from the British Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease, for which scientists sized up the available research on intermittent fasting and its health effects.

Popularized by such plans as the 5:2 diet (in which dieters eat normally five days a week and fast for the remaining two days), intermittent fasting is often touted as an alternative to conventional diets based on calorie-counting and portion control. In their review of animal-based studies and several small clinical trials, the authors of the recent report found that intermittent fasting may help improve blood pressure, lower heart rate, curb cholesterol, and shield heart health by raising levels of adiponectin (a protein involved in regulating fat metabolism).

One of the most extensively studied types of intermittent fasting is a plan known as alternate-day fasting, an every-other-day regimen that involves continually switching from fasting to regular eating. In a research review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007, scientists determined that alternate-day fasting may help keep blood sugar in check, strengthen defense against heart disease and possibly protect against cancer.

While intermittent fasting holds promise for shoring up health, some medical experts caution that the approach may pose harm to certain populations, including diabetes patients, those taking blood-pressure-lowering medications, pregnant women, and anyone with a history of an eating disorder.

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