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Alternate-day fasting comes with lasting health benefits, study finds

The latest iteration of intermittent fasting could be the best option for many consumers

Photo (c) everydayplus - Getty Images
Intermittent fasting has become popular among consumers as a way to maintain a healthy weight. Now, experts say a variation of the dieting plan could provide lasting health benefits. 

According to a new study, alternate-day fasting (ADF), which requires alternating between 12 hours of unlimited eating and 36 hours of no eating, has been found to be a safe way of dieting that can provide a number of health benefits.

“Strict ADF is one of the most extreme diet interventions, and it has not been sufficiently investigated with randomized controlled trials,” said researcher Frank Madeo. 

How ADF works

There were two trials involved in the researchers’ study: one in which 30 people who had been following ADF for six months were monitored to understand the long-term effects, and another involving 60 participants, half of whom followed ADF while the other half were given freedom over their diets. 

The participants followed ADF for four weeks, during which they recorded their fasting days in journals and had their glucose levels tested to ensure that they followed the restrictions properly. 

At the end of the four weeks, the researchers learned that ADF was successful in helping participants shed body fat while providing several other health benefits, including lower cholesterol levels and less belly fat. 

“We found that on average, during the 12 hours when they could eat normally, the participants in the ADF group compensated for some of the calories lost from the fasting, but not all,” said researcher Harald Sourij. “Overall, they reached a mean calorie restriction of about 35 percent and lost an average of 3.5 kg [7.7 lb] during four weeks of ADF.” 

The researchers also found that ADF was safe over the long-term, as those who had been following the diet for six months were found to be perfectly healthy, despite previous studies that found ADF could lead to health complications. 

Though this study yielded positive results, the researchers wouldn’t advocate for consumers to follow ADF for life. The team reminds consumers to always consult with medical professionals before undergoing a serious change to diet. 

“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,” said Madeo. “However, further research is needed before it can be applied in daily practice.”

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