Researchers Uncover Surprising Benefits of Alternate Day Fasting But is it Safe?

A new study has revealed the benefits of fasting every other day for people who are already healthy. It seems that going without food for a few days a week has some surprisingly positive benefits when strictly followed, but is it the best thing for you? 

The study examined the impact of alternate-day fasting (ADF) to see if it was a viable alternative to other methods often used for weight management and loss, such as caloric restriction and intermittent fasting. 

Randomized controlled trial conducted

Researchers from the Medical University of Graz, in Austria, enrolled 60 participants in a 4-week trial and assigned them randomly to either an ADF group or a control group

Those in the control group were free to eat and drink what they wanted while the ADF group alternated between a 36-hour, no-calorie fast and 12 hours of unlimited eating

Participants in the ADF group were under strict glucose monitoring to make sure that they did not consume any calories during the fasting period. Food diaries were also kept during the fasting days

To ensure the safety of following an ADF diet, researchers worked with 30 people who had been strictly following the ADF diet for six months or more.

Benefits of ADF extended beyond weight loss

While the participants in the ADF group did compensate for some of their lost calories during the free eat phase, they still experienced a mean caloric restriction of about 35%. They also lost an average of 7.7 pounds during the 4-week trial. 

But, this was not the only benefit uncovered.

Reduced marker linked to inflammation and age-related disease – Participants in the ADF group experienced reduced levels of soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1. This marker is linked to inflammation and age-related disease.

Lower levels of thyroid hormone – Participants experienced lower levels of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine without any compromise in thyroid function. Research has demonstrated lower levels of this hormone with longevity.

Lower cholesterol and less belly fat – Those in the ADF group experienced lower levels of cholesterol and a reduction in trunk or belly fat. In addition, they also had some restriction in amino acids, which may suggest an extended lifespan.

Supercharged ketone bodies –  Members of the ADF group had an upregulation of ketone bodies – considered a health benefit by researchers. – on both fasting and eating days.

Are there risks with ADF?

While researchers are not entirely clear as to why there are so many beneficial effects of ADF, other studies have indicated that people following a strict ADF diet may experience malnutrition and impaired immune function. However, researchers of the most recent study found no indication of immune problems in those who participated in ADF for 6 months or more.

Future application of ADF

Study authors have this to say about ADF,

“We feel that it is a good regime, for some months, for obese people to cut weight, or it might even be a useful clinical intervention in diseases driven by inflammation. However, further research is needed before it can be applied in daily practice.”

The researchers also caution against fasting if you have a viral infection and recommend always consulting a medical professional before starting any new diet.

Better options exist

If you are looking to drop fat, especially stubborn belly fat, consider a combination of a healthy, all-around diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, and even intermittent fasting. Stop eating anything with heavily processed, sugar or refined wheat, and fill your diet with loads of fresh veggies, fruit, healthy fats, and protein. The key to long term weight management lies in working with your body for optimal overall health and wellness.

-The Alternative Daily

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