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USC scientists investigate how intermittent fasting spurs weight loss and health

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Among the hottest diet trends is an ancient tradition: Fasting. Now California scientists are using cutting-edge research to investigate precisely how alternating semi-fasting and feasting can accelerate weight loss and even reduce the risk of disease, reported the BBC News on Jan. 1.

The clinical trial puts a different spin on traditional intermittent fasting: It requires study participants to struggle through five days each month of extremely low-calorie diets, followed by 25 days of eating normally. So what do they eat on those low-calorie days?

The menu includes:

  • vegetable-based soups
  • energy bars
  • energy drinks
  • dried kale snacks
  • chamomile tea

One participant in the clinical trial described his intense hunger pangs in terms worthy of "Oliver Twist" ("Please, sir, I want some more.")

"I was so hungry I would practically lick the soup bowl and shake the last kale crumb from its bag," recalled the human guinea pig.

And although the extreme weight loss diet sounds monotonous, that's one of the factors in its favor, says the originator of the study.

"The reason why diets don't work is because they are very complicated and people have an interpretation problem," contends Dr. Valter Longo, director of the University of Southern California (USC) Longevity Institute.

Therefore, intermittent fasting works "because you have no interpretation. You either do it or you don't do it. And if you do it you're going to get the effect."

However, the approach used in the clinical trial is not yet ready for prime time: It consists of bars, for example, made by Dr. Longo himself.

"It turned out to be a low-protein, low-sugar-and-carbohydrate diet, but a high-nourishment diet," he explained.

"We wanted it to be all natural. We didn't want to have chemicals in there and did not want to have anything that is associated with problems - diseases. Every component has to be checked and tested. It's no different to a drug."

Although the precise food in the clinical trial can't be attained by consumers yet, variations on the intermittent fasting approach for weight loss and health do exist.

Think it might work for you? Find out how to get started here:

  • If you feel that you can cut calories to 500 to 600 per day on two days a week and then feast the other days, go for the "Fast Diet:" Learn more, including the details about its companion cookbook, by clicking here.
  • A different approach is advocated by a nutrition professor, who's designed a day that requires restricting your calorie intake on alternate days: Read about her "Every Other Day Diet" by clicking here.
  • Originated in the UK, another twist on intermittent fasting is known as the "5:2" diet: Learn more here.


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