Alternate day fasting (ADF) is a new trend in the weight-loss world. Now, there’s research to show that it may have a positive effect in terms of reducing belly fat and lowering cholesterol levels.
On August 27, researchers from the University of Graz in Austria argued in an article in Cell Metabolism, a peer-reviewed journal, that four weeks of ADF improved cardiovascular markers, and reduced heart rate and blood pressure.
Plus, they wrote, following a strict ADF diet for six months, could lower LDL levels (LDL or low-density lipoproteins is also known as the bad cholesterol).
The researchers selected 60 healthy participants for a four-week trial, and randomly allocated them in the ADF group and a control group. The control group followed their usual diet. However, the ADF group participants fasted for 36 hours followed by 12 hours of eating without restrictions. Researchers monitored their blood sugar to make sure that the ADF group did not snack or drink sweetened beverages on fasting days.
Researchers found that the ADF group got all the benefits of calorie-restriction — including improved blood pressure and lower risk for heart disease — plus advantages like curtailing the action of pro-ageing amino acid in the body on fasting days. The ADF participants had:
- Lower levels of amino acids like methionine (which is pro-ageing) on fasting days
- Higher levels of ketone bodies (a product of fat metabolism) even on non-fasting days
- Lower levels of triiodothyronine hormone, without impaired thyroid gland function – previous research has associated lower levels of triiodothyronine with increased longevity
- Reduced belly fat and lower cholesterol levels
- Lower levels of soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1, which adds to longevity
Researchers also reported that up to six months of ADF did not have any significant downside. They noted that bone-mineral density and white blood cell count remain unaffected, while ADF helps in cell regeneration by activating autophagy — a kind of natural clean-up of dead cells.
Body mass index is a measure of weight to height ratio. Doctors recommend that this figure be in the range of 18.5 to 24.9 in both men and women. A BMI of over 25 indicates overweight and obesity. More than 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese.
Study after study has shown links between obesity and diabetes, obesity and hypertension, and obesity and cardiovascular disease. The USA has a high incidence of all three.
The ADF diet — and it’s easier cousin, intermittent fasting (shrinking your daily window of eating) — are simply tweaks on age-old fasting methods, and may offer benefits beyond weight loss.
There are, however, caveats. The research at the University of Graz focused primarily on healthy individuals — the researchers wrote that intermittent fasting may be a better option for people who are obese. Additionally, long periods of fasting is not recommended for people living with diabetes as well as pregnant women.
Some things to keep in mind before you decide to try the diet:
- Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease patients should not follow strict ADF
- Even healthy practitioners should ease into the fast: start by skipping breakfast and lunch. Extend this to a 24-hour fast. In a few days, when you’re comfortable, go without food for 36 hours
- Stay away from sweetened beverages on fasting days – they can induce hunger.
- Drink hot water instead, it will help you to feel less hungry
Keep yourself hydrated. Drink lots of water and stay relaxed.
- Try to avoid any strenuous work on fasting days
This article is excerpted from a report that originally appeared on FirstPost: