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Nutrition professor champions intermittent fasting: Lose 12 pounds in four weeks

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Can you feast on the foods that you love and still lose weight? Yes, if you're willing to go on a semi-fast on alternate days. The latest studies show that this new diet trend, known as intermittent fasting, works as well as regular weight loss plans, a nutrition professor told CBS News on Dec. 19.

Associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois, Krista Varady cited research showing that most people lose 12 pounds in four weeks.

"We show reductions in cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, insulin – we also show that people stick to it for a long time,” she said in reference to the studies.

“We had a one-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health, so we've shown that in repeated studies it does work. People stick with it and they get all these health benefits.” she added.

To help consumers try the alternate feasting and fasting diet approach, Krista has authored a book "The Every-Other-Day Diet: The Diet That Lets You Eat All You Want (Half the Time) and Keep the Weight Off" (click for details).

The nutrition professor contends that typical diets fail because you feel deprived. In contrast, she says, her research and those of other nutrition experts have shown that alternating high calorie and low calorie diet days succeeds.

"The diet involves something that we call a 'feast day,' where you can truly eat whatever you want and that’s alternated by something that’s called a diet day, where you eat 500 calories as either a lunch or a dinner,” she explained.

Because it can be followed for a long period of time and "lets you feel normal every other day," Krista predicts that it's the diet of the future.

“With this diet, you get to feel like a normal person," she emphasized.

However, while she feels that the 500 calorie ceiling is safe, Krista does not want people to regard the "feast" day as an opportunity to binge. And in her studies, dieters did not overeat.

"The reason that they don't do that is – what we think is happening is the stomach is shrinking, slowly, basically as you have the alternate diet days,” she said.

Therefore, on the feast day, "you actually don't binge on that because the stomach has shrunken and it won't allow you to basically compensate for the lack of food.”

A recent study shows that after the initial mental adjustment, the intermittent fasting approach also is easier to follow, reported the Wall Street Journal recently.

In addition to weight loss, health benefits include improved mental functioning and maintenance of muscle when compared to standard restricted calorie diets, according to the government's National Institute on Aging.

When they compared people who ate 1,200 calories to 1,500 calories daily to those who ate normally most days of the week and then ate 500 to 600 calories two days a week, researchers found that those who used the intermittent fasting approach lost as much as or more than those who consistently reduced their calories.

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