Alternate-day fasting heralded as 'safe alternative to dieting' in University of Graz study

A new study into alternate-day fasting (ADF) has found it may be a safer way to lose weight and keep it off than traditional dieting.

For food lovers, this means every second day they can pig out on whatever they like, as much as the like, all day long... while still shredding kilograms.

The study, conducted by the University of Graz in Austria, had participants alternate 36 hours of complete fasting with 12 hours of unlimited eating.

The participants lost an average of 3.5kg over the four-week study and appeared to enjoy a range of health benefits.

Unlike some calorie-restrictive diets, the group being studied didn't suffer malnutrition or a negatively affected immune system, even after practising ADF continuously for six months.

A University of Graz into Alternate-day fasting calls it a 'safe alternative to dieting'.
Every second day, ADF allows you to eat whatever you want for 12 hours. Photo credit: Getty

ADF, which is similar to intermittent fasting, is said to imitate a caveman hunter-gatherer diet, but its benefits and potential dangers are not yet fully understood.

"Why exactly calorie restriction and fasting induce so many beneficial effects is not fully clear yet," says Thomas Pieber of the University of Graz.

"The elegant thing about strict ADF is that it doesn't require participants to count their meals and calories - they just don't eat anything for one day."

"We feel that it is a good regime for some months for obese people to cut weight, or it might even be a useful clinical intervention in diseases driven by inflammation," says professor Frank Madeo of University of Graz.

"However, further research is needed before it can be applied in daily practice. Additionally, we advise people not to fast if they have a viral infection, because the immune system probably requires immediate energy to fight viruses."

The study's findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism on August 27.

The research was funded primarily funded by the Austrian Science Fund, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and the BioHealth Field of Excellence at the University of Graz.

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