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Fasting helps reduce cholesterol, prevent diabetes and increase weight loss

Can fasting help your health?
Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images

As researchers analyze intermittent fasting, studies have shown benefits ranging from anti-aging to weight loss. Now a new study has revealed that fasting can reduce cholesterol while preventing diabetes, reported Diabetes UK on Monday.

Participants in the study, which was conducted by Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, had three of five diabetes risks. Among the measurements considered: High fasting blood glucose levels, low levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL), hypertension, high triglyceride levels and waist measurements.

However, in contrast to intermittent fasting diets that consist of restricted calories, this study involved sipping only water on the fasting days. Researchers found that cholesterol levels improved while fat percentages decreased.

While those researchers plan additional studies, Dr. Michael Mosley recently created a documentary about 5:2 intermittent fasting plans, reported the Epoch Times on Monday. His study used an unusually willing guinea pig: His own body.

After discovering that restricted-calorie intake two days a week (500 calories for women; 600 calories for men) had benefits similar to those unveiled by the Intermountain Medical Center, Mosley created a detailed intermittent fasting diet. It became a bestseller because of its promise that you can feast five days a week, then semi-fast two days and still lose weight: "The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting."

But not everyone agrees that restricting calories just two days a week is the best approach for weight loss. Dr. Krista Varady, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois, says that her research shows dieters find it easier to alternate days.

In her book, "The Every-Other-Day Diet: The Diet That Lets You Eat All You Want (Half the Time) and Keep the Weight Off," Varady describes how to restrict calories on alternate days. While the title says that you can eat all you want on the other days, she notes that dieters typically cut calories naturally because they become accustomed to reducing their food intake.

In yet another variation on the restricted calorie concept of fasting, natural foods chef Pooja Mottl recommends using different types of three-day detox diets to cleanse the body and jump-start healthy eating. "The 3-Day Reset: Restore Your Cravings For Healthy Foods in Three Easy, Empowering Days" offers different ways to cut cravings for foods such as sugar and wheat through semi-fasts.