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We’ve all heard about fasting diets or variations of them. Some advocate eating a healthy balanced diet all the time but cutting calories to about 25% of required maintenance energy for 2 days of the week. Others preach the benefits of fasting for 16 hours a day and eating for 8 hours only.
Some believe that these fasting diets replicate the way we evolved to live as cavemen, a point which we have not yet gone beyond; stone age man would have gone for periods of fasting while hunting and gathering, then feasting on the rewards.
Recent studies have shown that this can lead to weight loss, correct hormonal balance, improved sleep and improved blood markers. Blood markers are signals that show levels of growth hormones, which can be lowered by feast/fast diets. When growth hormones are lowered, the body moves from “growth” mode to “repair” mode. This in turn leads to a lower risk of disease, a longer lifespan and healthy weight levels.
Variations of the feast/fast are the 5:2 (probably the most well known), the ADF diet (alternate day fasting) and the 16:8 as described above.
However, as there have, as yet, been few studies on feast/fast diets, scientists are loath to recommend them for fear of liability. But now they say they have developed a five-day, once a month diet that mimics fasting and is also safe and effective. In a new study funded by the ational Institute on Ageing in the US, participants who intermittently fasted for a period of three months had reduced risk factors for an amazing variety of issues: ageing, cancer, diabetes and cardio-vascular disease.
The scientists behind the study likened mimic fasting as a way to “re-boot” the body, cleaning out damaged cells and regenerating new ones. So how does it work? For 25 days a month those in the study ate normally. Some good, some bad, some mediocre. Then on day 26 they ate only 1090 calories consisting of 10% protein, 56% fat and 34% carbohydrate. Then on days 27 through to day 30 calories were reduced further to 725; 9% protein, 44% fat and 47% carbohydrate. On these low calorie days they consumed 54 to 34% of their average daily maintenance calories. Foods typically eaten during this stage were vegetable soup, kale crackers and chamomile tea.
The participants in the study completed 3 cycles (or 3 months) of the mimic fasting, after which researchers measured them, finding lower bio-markers and risk factors for disease – with no side effects.
Petronella Ravenshear, a nutritional therapist in London, said that the new diet “is less of a stressor on the body than complete fasting.”
“It supplies most of the carbohydrates in the form of vegetables which are packed with phytonutrients and minerals and positively good for us, rather than grain-derived carbohydrates which don’t supply much except sugar,” she said.
Read more about mimic fasting here.