Alternate Day Fasting Reduces Body Fat and Cholesterol
Have you heard of alternate day fasting? It’s a type of fasting that uses feeding days and fasting days alternated every other day. Nutrition Journal recently published a study on this method of fasting. Unlike many research studies that focus on weight loss for the obese, this study was aimed squarely at understanding if alternate day fasting works for the average person.
Researchers wanted to understand how this fasting protocol would affect the body weight and cholesterol of normal adults. They selected 32 people ranging in age from 35-65 years. Each participant had a BMI of 20-30, roughly placing them at a normal weight for their height. Each participant also reported being lightly active, and everyone’s weight had been stable for at least three months.
Researchers divided the group into a fasting group and a control group. The fasting group was put on an alternate day fasting schedule. On feeding days they ate whatever they wanted. But the next day would be a fasting day, and each fasting participant ate only a single meal given between noon and 2:00pm. The meal wasn’t very large either - only about 500 calories. The control group lived life as normal, eating whatever they liked every day.
At the end of twelve weeks, researchers took body measurements and blood samples and compared them to baseline. The fasting group experienced significant changes compared to the control group. The fasting group lost an average of 11lbs, and about 8lbs of that was fat. The fasting group also decreased their total cholesterol.
But the details of the cholesterol changes are even more interesting. The fasting group reduced their triglycerides by over twenty points. They also increased the size of their LDL cholesterol particles. Larger LDL particles are correlated with lower rates of heart disease because they don’t clog arteries the way smaller LDL particles can. The fasting group also experienced slightly reduced blood pressure, but the change wasn’t significant compared to the control group.
Overall, it was a big win for the fasting group. Only one participant quit the fasting diet during the study, which shows that sticking with the plan wasn’t impossible. If you are looking to lose weight and improve your cholesterol, then alternate day fasting may be able to help. I do not recommend this diet for athletes who train intensely, as the fasting days may have some unpredictable effects on recovery. But for the average person leading an average lifestyle, alternate day fasting is a successful tactic for weight loss.
1. Krista Varady, et al. "Alternate day fasting for weight loss in normal weight and overweight subjects: a randomized controlled trial." Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:146. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-146
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.