The diet industry in the United States is huge – but you don’t need me to tell you that. Just turn on the television, open a magazine, or look at the ads on social media websites, and it won’t take you long to find an advertisement on diets promising you that this diet is ‘the one.’ There are always new studies being published about diets that promise to shed the pounds and potentially reverse some health conditions; the alternate day diet is one of them – but is it safe or effective?
Diet Every Other Day?
The alternate day diet, also known as Intermittent Fasting, the Up Day Down Day Diet by Dr. Johnson, JUDDD, and a variety of other nicknames, asks the dieter to restrict his calories every other day. Alternate day calorie reduction studies show benefits such as increased life span, reduced symptoms of arthritis and asthma, and the potential to improve heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.
According to Dr. Johnson’s website, on the restricted-calorie days of the induction phase, dieters should eat no more than 500 calories a day – exact amounts depend on age, activity level, current weight, and other factors. The reduction in calories on alternate days is intended to help stimulate the SIRT1 gene, also known as the ‘skinny gene,’ which is stimulated when calories are restricted, according to Dr. Johnson.
Sound too good to be true? Maybe so, but there is research to back up these claims.
More than a decade ago, MIT biology professor Leonard Guarente discovered SIRT1’s longevity-boosting properties and has continued to study SIRT1’s other benefits. In a more recent study, published in Cell Metabolism, he studied what occurs when SIRT1 is missing from adipose (fat) cells. According to his study, when mice followed a high fat diet, mice that lacked SIRT1 began to develop metabolic disorders like diabetes a lot sooner than mice with the SIRT1 gene. Professor Guarente told Decoded Science that, according to his research, SIRT1 “can counteract diseases of aging, such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s” – at least in mice. This research shows that the possibility of developing a drug that would enhance the SIRT1 gene in people may help to protect against obesity-related diseases.
Intermittent Fasting: The Problems
Professor Guarente’s research has proven that the SIRT1 protein is essential in protecting mice against metabolic disorders and aging effects, such as Alzheimer’s. However, he told Decoded Science that he disagrees with the alternate day diet – not because of the results, but because of the difficulty involved in following the diet correctly. Guarente believes that a drug could do the same thing as the alternate day diet, but without having to go on a diet.
A variety of additional research has shown other health benefits for intermittent fasting (fasting can be defined as no food intake, anywhere up to 800 calories per day, depending on the source) - check out the Resources section below for several studies on the topic. For Michael Mosley’s adventures in Intermittent Fasting, check out the Eat, Fast, and Live Longer video from the BBC. Click through below the video for more information about intermittent fasting, and an interview with registered dietitian Barbara Day.
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