The feast or famine diet

A new diet that allows you to eat whatever you want every other day may help you live longer as well as lose weight, claim advocates

A new diet that allows you to eat whatever you want one day – then cut back drastically the next – promises health benefits, as well as making it easier to lose weight, say advocates.

The Alternate-Day Diet, or Longevity Diet, allows you to eat whatever you want one day, but on the next you cut your normal consumption by at least 50 per cent.

As well as making the diet easier to stick to psychologically, advocates say it speeds weightloss and may increase longevity.

There are also claims that it eases asthma symptoms, reduces blood pressure and helps protect against heart disease and breast cancer.

Advocates claim that the diet works by triggering the health benefits of a very low calorie diet, which scientists have known for decades can increase longevity in animals.

Few humans could manage to stick to such diet of 800 calories a day, however. But tests on rats in 2003 by Dr Mark Mattson, an American Neuroscientist, showed they enjoyed all the health benefits if their diet was only cut on alternate days, reports the Mail.

Krista Varady, assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois, Chicago, has conducted a 10-week trial on 16 overweight patients who ate 20 per cent of their normal intake one day, and a regular healthy diet the next. Each lost between 10lb and 30lb, more than expected.

‘It takes about two weeks to adjust to the diet and, after that, people don’t feel hungry on the fast days,’ says Varady.

Recently it has emerged that the diet’s success and health benefits may be due to it triggering the SIRT1 gene, which triggers the body to burn fat. This gene also may to be responsible for the claimed health benefits of the diet, such as a drop in inflammation and lower blood sugar levels.

Critics, however, say this is just another potentially dangerous fad diet. “A disordered eating pattern such as this is obviously not to be recommended,” Mary George of the eating disorder charity Beat told the Independent. “Depriving the body of regular nutrients in this way over a period of time could lead to long-term harm and possibly take someone down the path to a full-blown eating disorder.”

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