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Intermittent fasting diet is one of the hottest weight-loss trends of 2014

Intermittent fasting spurs rapid weight loss and protects the brain.
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Intermittent fasting, or IF, is being hailed as one of the hottest weight-loss trends of 2014.

The trend was fueled by the runaway success of The FastDiet (or 5:2 diet), in which dieters fast two days of the week and eat whatever they want the other five days. Typically dieters eat 500 calories (600 for men) on their "fasting" days and follow their normal diets the other days.

Studies showed that people who followed the 5:2 diet experienced rapid weight loss without deprivation. What's more, research suggests that intermittent fasting protects brain health, helps maintain lean muscle mass, and boosts the release of anti-aging hormones.

Now, another diet, The Every-Other-Day Diet (or 4:3 diet), is being touted for its ability to produce fast weight loss and improve insulin sensitivity. On the 4:3 plan, dieters fast for four days and then take the remaining three days off. The author, Dr. Krista Varady, said she easily shed 41 pounds on the plan while still enjoying all her favorite foods.

Nutrition experts said a major advantage of intermittent fasting is that it's easier to maintain than a linear diet where you're constantly depriving yourself.

"We think that once the people get adjusted to the diet, it is easy to adhere to," said Dr. Mattson, chief of the neurosciences lab at the National Institute on Aging. "If you know that tomorrow you can eat normally, you can make it through today."

Previous research has indicated that intermittent fasting melts body fat and promotes the release of anti-aging hormones. Actor Hugh Jackman followed a 16/8 intermittent fasting plan to achieve his rippling Wolverine body.

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