A new type of dieting was recently studied by the University of Illinois at Chicago. While restricting daily calorie intake is a common plan to help obese and overweight people slim down to healthier weights, this would generally require a 15-40 percent calorie reduction, which makes sticking to the diet hard for many.
Researchers in Chicago have found that a modified version of a plan called "alternate-day fasting" may be easier for most people and that it has the added bonus of improving cardio health. The findings appear in the November 1 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"This diet has been around about 20 years, but its effect on weight loss hadn't really been studied," said Krista Varady, assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition, who led the UIC research team. The 10-week trial studied 16 clinically obese people -- 12 women and four men -- between the ages of 35 and 65 who all weighed more than 210 pounds, had kept their weight stable for the previous three months, and had body mass indexes of between 30 and 39.9.
On fast days, participants ate the equivalent of between 20 and 25 percent of their normal daily energy needs. Weight loss ranged from 10 to 30 pounds; the researchers expected an average loss of only five pounds. Blood pressure and heart rate were also lowered, along with total cholesterol and circulating fat levels.
Varady hopes now to study the effects of staying on the diet for at least six months, looking for evidence of self-motivation and to see if the diet helps in maintaining proper weight. "Why are some able to do it but others not? It takes about two weeks to adjust to the diet, after which people don't feel hungry on the fast day," she said.