Alternate-day diet, short fasting and slimming signals: new scientific evidence

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12448772_mThere is very interesting news regarding the messages able to help our organism loose fat body mass while maintaining its muscular tone.

Periods of intense eating like Christmas always reawaken the interest on how to deal with the post-festivity consequences. Despite inviting people to enjoy these seasonal moments with moderation, we all know that this time often correlated with weight gain.

During the “Obesity Week” held in Los Angeles at the beginning of November, one of hottest topics discussed regarded the validity of the alternate-day diet.

On this regard, a video by Dr. Krista Varady proves to be quite interesting. She refers to some of the studies she authored around the topic.

The alternate-day diet is a peculiar nutritional set-up based upon a highly hypocaloric day (during which the patient tends to eat around 600-650 calories) followed by a day in which it is allowed to eat freely in terms of quantities.

Already for a few years, we have been applying such technique in our practice on a specific subset of patients. This plan is characterized by a “free diet” day, which still has to take into account any personal food-related reactivity, without overlooking food quality and a correct proportion of protein, carbs and vegetables, but still in unlimited satisfying quantities.

In the past, many competent doctors and nutritionists have stigmatized the concept of alternate-day diet (which should always be modulated according to the individual) because they considered the free day only as the chance to eat junk food without restraint. Their criticism resulted extremely superficial and did not take into account some recent scientific arguments, which instead confirmed the usefulness of such approach for many patients who want to lose fat.

On the same line, the so-called 5:2 diet has been correctly criticised when presented as “two days of fasting and 5 days of junk”. This dietary approach and its different variants (4:3 or 6:1 if needed) are based upon basic principles of good nutrition as well as some solid scientific evidence, which can be useful and informative to study the metabolic signals and messages sent to the organism as well as to obtain substantial results.

Many effects triggered by the alternate-day diet refer to the concept of short fasting (15-16 hours of fast), which is able to trigger fat loss through a molecule called FSP27. This is indeed a novel signal, which is able to activate the body metabolism and should be exploited for its positive effects on weight loss.

We are not talking of a new diet but instead of the importance to understand all those signals that, if triggered, are able to define the best individual diet, in other words how we can enjoy a tasteful meal while losing weight at the same time.

The usefulness of including single hypocaloric days (which should never last longer than 24 hours, since what we want to do is to activate a signal, not to create a low-calorie continuous diet that will eventually produce opposite effects) in the weekly diet had already been mentioned in one of our most popular books entitled “Breakfast and brunch for the well-being”, in which we presented more than twenty customizable nutritional plans suitable for all types of food reactivity.

The benefits produced by the alternate-day diet and by the alternate presence of fasting in the diet have been thoroughly documented by numerous scientific articles, which also proposed some ideas of application.

For example, Dr. Varady published a study in Obesity Research and Clinical Practice, in which she pointed at the augmented responsiveness to alternate diet in the Caucasian population when compared to other races, while an equivalent response to it could be detected between male and female subjects.

Therefore, the genetic background and other individual features do interfere with the level of response, which is not strictly linked to the existing body mass index at the beginning of the diet (KA Varady et al, Obes Res Clin Pract. 2015 Sep 15. pii: S1871-403X(15)00134- 9. doi:10.1016/j.orcp.2015.08.020. [Epub ahead of print]).

Another study, published this time in May 2015 on the Nutritional Journal, described instead the absence of side effects triggered by such diet. The authors of the article were concerned about the alternation of very restrictive and very permissive days, since that may have worsened certain eating disorders.

At the end of the 8 weeks of experimentation, this dietary approach had instead triggered a significant improvement in the existing food restrictive attitudes as well as in the own image perception (Hoddy KK et al, Nutr J. 2015 May 6; 14:44. doi: 10.1186/s12937-015- 0029-9). Moreover, the treated population managed to significantly lose around 5% of the total weight compared to the control group.

Here, we are laying the foundations for a new way of thinking of weight loss and real dietary alternatives and integrated choices.

Even during intense periods of eating, you can still find a couple of days each week to detoxify and control the diet, so that it will be possible to avoid that feeling of being constantly full and slow.

Obviously, we will keep presenting and explaining the new scientific advances in the area to our readers, while always being available to help those people in need through personalized food signals sent to the body in order to activate the metabolism and achieve good fitness and well-being.