Fasting every other day can help obese people lose weight, according to a new study from the University of Illinois.
In this study, 12 obese women and 4 obese men (BMI > 30) ate normally for a two-week control period. Then, for eight weeks, they ate just 25 percent of the calories they needed to maintain their weight, between noon and 2 p.m., every other day.
On their non-fasting days, they ate whatever they wanted and lost an average of 5.6 kilograms (about 12 pounds) after eight weeks.
Total cholesterol dropped by 21 percent and "bad" LDL cholesterol dropped by 25 percent on average. Systolic blood pressure (the upper number) readings also improved by an average of five points.
Previous studies in normal and overweight people have shown that this on-off fasting strategy can help people lose weight and improve their blood cholesterol levels.
While the researchers had thought people might overeat on their non-fasting day, this turned out not to be true. "I think it's probably because their stomachs kind of shrunk," said the lead author.
Anyone who wants to give this type of fasting a try should meet with their doctor or a dietitian first.
This study was published in the November 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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