Alternate-day fasting may aid weight loss, study suggests

Over recent years, there has been a general consensus in the health and fitness community that fasting is not an effective tool for weight loss.  A recent study released by the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois suggests otherwise.

As recently as earlier this year, fasting has been associated with a decrease in metabolism and, thusly, has be been regarded as an ineffective weight loss tool.  The theory is that your body goes into starvation mode which causes it to store fat in reserve since it doesn’t know when the next meal is coming.  The end result is that your metabolism slows to prevent the burning of calories (fuel).

In the study, published in the November 2009 issue of the American Journal of Nutrition, the method of alternate-day fasting was found to help facilitate weight loss in obese individuals.  Alternate-day fasting is a method where you fast every other day and eat whatever you want on the days in between.

“People lost anywhere from about 7 pounds to about 30 pounds and that was in a very short amount of time,” states Dr. Krista Varaday, one of the researchers that conducted the study.

Overall, the study was very small including 12 obese women and 4 obese men.  The group was monitored for two weeks while they ate normally so a baseline could be created.  After that, they were allowed to eat only 25 percent of their normal calorie intake between noon and two every other day for eight weeks.

For the first half, their fasting day meal was provided by a nutritionist.  The responsibility for the meal was that of the participant for the second four-week period.

The results of the study show that participants lost an average of 1 1/2 pounds per week.  Additionally, they recorded an average reduction in total cholesterol of 21 percent with their LDL (bad) cholesterol dropping an average 25 percent.

The researchers expected the participants to possibly overeat during their “off” days but they found that they consumed an averaged 100% to 125% of their recommended calorie needs.

The researchers plan to continue studying the effects of alternate-day fasting by taking a look at the long-term effects to see if participants will continue to lose weight or can maintain a healthy weight.