Fasting may just be the way to shed those unwanted pounds quickly and naturally, and it may be good for your health as well.
But this kind of fasting doesn’t involve starving yourself. Nor does it mean giving up all your favorite foods. Not pizza. Not ice cream or cookies. Not fried chicken or mashed potatoes. Not even a beer.
If you’re tired of counting calories and denying yourself; or if you simply can’t seem to find a way to make that scale move, you’ll be interested in a report aired by NBC News on Thursday, April 7. According to Krista Varady, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois, Chicago, “intermittent fasting” works. Varady found, in a study of 700 people, that those who fasted intermittently for a period of eight weeks, lost between 10 and 30 pounds. She also found, and this may be even more important than the weight loss, a corresponding reduction in cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. There is some evidence, also, that periodic fasting may contribute to better health in old age and decrease risk for certain diseases like diabetes.
Not everyone is convinced, by any means. And, even among proponents, there are multiple variations to controlled or intermittent fast diets. Do the long-term benefits outweigh any disadvantages? Even the experts disagree, but some scientists believe that the need for specific drugs could be reduced or eliminated by controlled fasting.
Those in Varady’s group fasted on alternate days, but another intermittent fasting diet known as the 5-2 Plan, recommends cutting calories to one quarter of normal on only two days each week.
Varady disputes the value of the British plan developed by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer, but acknowledges that alternate day fasting may somewhat restrict an active social life, and that it may be too stringent for some. However, the NBC story notes that, after losing weight, maintenance requires a less dramatic calorie variation every second day, making the diet more “palatable.”
An interesting finding of the studies, according to Varady, is that binge eating on non-fasting days is not a problem. In addition, she notes, the body easily adapts to a 48-hour cycle. She says that more study may be needed, but intermittent fasting may lead naturally to better habits. As a nutritionist, she claims that she would like to see everyone eat well all the time. But, she says, during her testing those who chose high fat content food on their “normal” days reported feeling more satisfied than participants who chose “healthier” meals. Even so, there were virtually no differences in either weight loss or reduction of cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin or glucose levels.
To begin, women are advised to consume only 500 calories on fast days, while men can eat 600. Recommended allowances for adults are 2000 and 2400, respectively. Exercise, at least three times a week, is encouraged to keep energy levels high and to tone the body.
Although medical professionals once rejected this type of periodic, controlled fasting, more and more are being won over by the findings. No longer is it considered risky or detrimental to miss meals occasionally, or to fast one or more days a week. Indeed, some cultures and belief systems have long recommended such practices. Now, perhaps, the scientific community is about to join the ranks by confirming that, at least in some cases, a “fast diet” can extend health and wellness and also contribute to a trimmer body.
If you’re interested in knowing how the 5:2 Fast Diet stacks up against others for weight loss, U.S. News & World Report ranks many of the best known diet plans. As always, nutritionists and medical professionals recommend seeking approval from your doctor before beginning any diet.
Also, you can read another assessment about intermittent fasting, this one from almost three years ago, that points to additional benefits from fasting. Maybe it’s time to consider it for its health benefits alone, with any weight loss just a bonus.