• Glenn Wilson

    Does every-other-day-eating prevent the metabolic slowing that accompanies weight loss or improve compliance over constant day-to-day calorie restriction?

    Dr. Greger: Rather than cutting calories day in and day out, what if you instead just ate as much as you wanted every other day? Or for only a few hours a day? Or fasted two days a week? Or five days a month? These are all examples of intermittent fasting regimens. That may even be the way we were built. Three meals a day may be a relatively novel behavior for our species. For millennia our ancestors may have only “consumed only one large meal a day or went several days [at a time] without food.”

    Intermittent fasting is often presented as a means of stressing your body—in a good way. There is a concept in biology called hormesis, which can be thought of as the that-which-doesn’t-kill-you-makes-you-stronger principle. Exercise is the classic example, where you put stress on your heart and muscles, and as long as there’s sufficient recovery time, you are all the healthier for it. Is that the case with intermittent fasting? Mark Twain thought it was: ‘‘A little starvation can…do more for the average sick man than can the best medicines and the best doctors. [Not just] a restricted diet, [but] total abstention from food for one or two days.’’

    But Twain also said, “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” Is the craze over intermittent fasting just hype? Many diet fads have their roots in legitimate science, but over time, facts can get distorted, benefits exaggerated, and risks downplayed. In other words, “Science takes a back seat to marketing.” At the same time, you don’t want to lose out on any potential benefit by dismissing something out of hand based on the absurdist claims of overzealous promoters. You don’t want to throw the baby out with the baby fat.

    Religious fasting is the most studied form of intermittent fasting—specifically Ramadan, a month-long period in which devout Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. The effects are complicated by a change in sleeping patterns, and also thirst. The same dehydration issue arises with Yom Kippur, when observant Jews stop eating and drinking for about 25 hours. The most studied form of intermittent fasting that deals only with food restriction is alternate-day fasting, which involves eating every other day, alternating with days consuming little or no calories.

    Continue at NutritionFacts: Alternate-Day Intermittent Fasting Put to the Test.

    To see the full transcript or links to cited sources go to the link above, then scroll below the video and click on View Transcript or Sources Cited.

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