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Alternate Day Fasting

November 12, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

One of the things I enjoy most about studying natural medicine is that it constantly exposes me to concepts and cultural details that I otherwise might not learn about. Throughout the world there are scientists who choose to devote their lives to very specific aspects of health. Some focus on the causes and prevention of cancer. Others examine how certain diet plans affect body weight. Perhaps my favorite area of research is the investigation of foods and therapeutic practices that are deeply ingrained in a particular part of the world. For instance, it’s no accident that much of the research on olive oil is conducted in Mediterranean countries or that experiments involving acupuncture are predominantly carried out in the Far East.

The first stop in today’s world tour is Japan. A new study in the Journal of Functional Foods provides evidence that a combination of lychee fruit and green tea may help combat abdominal obesity. Lychee (Litchi chinensis) is a delicious tropical fruit that has a long and revered history in Asia. It was first mentioned in Chinese literature in 1059 A.D. From a nutritional standpoint, modern analysis indicates that this fruit is a rich source of potassium and Vitamin C. In addition, researchers are currently investigating lychee’s potential in combating conditions ranging from breast cancer to diabetes. (1,2,3)

18 adults with a “waist circumference over 85 cm” were recently enrolled in a pilot study using a lychee/green tea supplement known as Oligonol. The age range of the participants spanned from 24 – 59 years. Half of the group was given 50 mg of Oligonol twice daily for 10 weeks. The remainder of the volunteers received an inactive placebo. Blood tests, CT scans (X-rays) of the abdomen and physical exams were performed pre and post study. Those receiving the lychee/green tea extract lost approximately 3 centimeters in the waist region. There was a 15% “reduction in abdominal (visceral) fat” and a 6% “reduction in subcutaneous fat area”. An improvement in insulin sensitivity and adiponectin levels were also recorded. These changes are indicative of improved blood sugar control and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and/or metabolic syndrome.

Another study from November 2009 demonstrated that this same lychee fruit extract improved “fat burning” (lipolysis) in an animal model. Furthermore, a September 2009 experiment in humans found that a “green tea meal replacement formula” resulted in significant weight loss in a group of “120 healthy, overweight and obese” volunteers. The authors of that study noted that green tea promoted substantial fat loss and a decline in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol as well. (4,5,6)

Our second stop on the map is the United States of America. One of the most serious medical problems that this country faces is an obesity epidemic. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcoming this health crisis is the ability to stick to a diet plan over the long term. A few new studies from North American universities offer a unique alternative to conventional dieting.

Researchers at the University of Chicago propose using a technique known as “alternate-day fasting” in overweight and obese individuals. They recently conducted a 10 week experiment involving 16 obese patients of both genders with ages between 35-65. The volunteers were asked to eat and exercise as they normally would for two weeks, this is considered the “control phase” of the study. During the next 4 weeks the participants ate normal meals for one day and did a modified fast on the following day, which consisted of a large meal that provided only 25% of their typical daily caloric intake. The final four weeks of the study allowed the volunteers to eat however they chose. They were asked to meet with a dietitian, but the actual menu selection was left up to them. This final stage was set up to determine whether the participants could and would continue with the alternate-day fasting approach. Most of them did.

  • The volunteers lost between 10-30 lbs. during the course of the trial. This far exceeded the expected weight loss of only 5 lbs.
  • Blood pressure, heart rate, total cholesterol and triglycerides were all improved in a post study evaluation.

The researchers noted that it required most of the volunteers about 2 weeks to adapt to this unconventional diet plan. After that point, hunger levels dropped on the fasting days. A recent animal trial conducted at the University of California at Berkeley discovered that such a diet specifically decreases the level of visceral fat (fat that surrounds bodily organs) and increased adiponectin levels. (7,8)

There’s even more good news about alternate day fasting (ADF). A recent review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition explains that preliminary human studies suggest that ADF may play a role in the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. These are several of the leading causes of mortality worldwide. (9)

The final stop on this ride is Malmo, Sweden. Researchers from the Clinical Research Center at Lund University are excited about a traditional herbal formula which may help in the fight against invasive prostate cancer. This natural medicine is known as TBS-101 and is comprised of chamomile, cranberry, grape seed, grape skin, reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) and Panax ginseng. This herbal blend has recently shown potent anti-cancer activity in both human prostate cancer cells and in animals with prostate tumors. The authors of the research summarize their findings by saying that “TBS-101 has a good safety profile and significant anticancer activities in hormone-refractory PC-3 cells and large aggressive PC-3 tumors”. They go on to add that it appears to have “great potential for the treatment of aggressive prostate cancer”. One of the chief ingredients in TBS-101 is chamomile. A new trial published in the journal Life Sciences describes “novel” anti-inflammatory properties in chamomile that may be partially responsible for its chemoprotective effects. A previous experiment from 2007 also supports chamomiles ability to combat cancer spread and to selectively destroy malignant cells. (10,11,12)

I was recently contacted by a unique charitable organization known as “Movember”. They’re a non-profit organization that is raising funds for cancer research. The money raised is shared by the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Thus far, Movember has raised over $47 million worldwide to help promote prostate and testicular cancer awareness and research. Here’s the fun part about their efforts – instead of asking volunteers to walk a marathon for donations or wear a ribbon, they’re asking clean shaven men to grow a moustache for the entire month of November. Men who already have facial hair are asked to shave off their beards and moustaches for a month! If you’d like to learn more about Movember, please visit their website. If you decide to donate to the cause, please let them know that you’re a Healthy Fellow reader and they’ll send you a complementary t-shirt or other memento as a token of appreciation. Please note that I’m not receiving any compensation or favors by mentioning this. I just think it’s a good cause and it might be a fun thing for some of you to consider.

Be well!

JP

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10 Comments & Updates to “Alternate Day Fasting”

  1. toby lee Says:

    There is some interesting data suggesting that keeping your vitamin D level optimal will prevent colds, flu and in particular H1N1 (swine Flu).
    Here are links to two interesting articles:

    August 2009-Vitamin D3 deficiency and its role in influenza
    http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs026/1102452079631/archive/1102685428884.html
    Sept 2009-More on Vitamin D3 and influenza
    http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs026/1102452079631/archive/1102728693089.html

    If these links don’t work go to http://www.vitaminD3world.com and click on ‘In the news” to find these updates.

    This site also offers a free newsletter and has recently launched a new micro pill formulation of vitamin D.

  2. JP Says:

    Toby,

    I think Vitamin D is indeed a valuable aid in supporting immune function and protecting against upper respiratory infections. I’ve included much of that data in previous columns on the H1N1 pandemic.

    My wife personally used high dosages of D to dodge the H1N1 virus. I recently wrote a column about her experience which will be posted sometime next week.

    Be well!

    JP

  3. anne h Says:

    Dang it!
    Now I want a mustache!
    Or is that just wrong?

    Alt day fasting – so long ago (seems like a lifetime) we met via the blogs, talking about this very subject! *sigh*

  4. Oct Says:

    Alternate day fasting sounds like something I might try in the near future. Thanks JP!

  5. JP Says:

    Me too, Anne! Actually, Mrs. H likes it when I don’t shave. I rarely let my inner “cave man” look go beyond a week’s worth of not-shaving though. :)

    I do recall your alt day fasting. As I wrote this column, I thought of our previous discussions. You’re ahead of the curve!

    Be well!

    JP

  6. JP Says:

    Thanks, Oct! If you give alternate day fasting a shot, please let us know how it works out. I love “reports from the field”! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  7. James Davis Laughead Says:

    Another way to control weight, is to Semi-Fast. You can eat any food and as much as you want, all you do is just chew your food, over and over, till all the flavor is out of the food,swallow the juice and drop the bulk out of your mouth into a cup, feed it to the birds or the dog. It works great, and you don’t gain any weight, in fact you lose some, as chewing burns calories. That’s what ants do, they swallow nothing whole.

  8. JP Says:

    I can’t go along with that one, Mr. Laughead. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  9. EquiisSavant Says:

    Where do you get that fruit ?

  10. JP Says:

    EquiisSavant,

    You can find lychee fruit in many Asian markets.

    Be well!

    JP

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