The effect on health of alternate day calorie restriction

I want to try this:


Restricting caloric intake to 60-70% of normal adult weight maintenance requirement prolongs lifespan 30-50% and confers near perfect health across a broad range of species. Every other day feeding produces similar effects in rodents, and profound beneficial physiologic changes have been demonstrated in the absence of weight loss in ob/ob mice. Since May 2003 we have experimented with alternate day calorie restriction, one day consuming 20-50% of estimated daily caloric requirement and the next day ad lib eating, and have observed health benefits starting in as little as two weeks, in insulin resistance, asthma, seasonal allergies, infectious diseases of viral, bacterial and fungal origin (viral URI, recurrent bacterial tonsillitis, chronic sinusitis, periodontal disease), autoimmune disorder (rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis, symptoms due to CNS inflammatory lesions (Tourette’s, Meniere’s) cardiac arrhythmias (PVCs, atrial fibrillation), menopause related hot flashes. We hypothesize that other many conditions would be delayed, prevented or improved, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, brain injury due to thrombotic stroke atherosclerosis, NIDDM, congestive heart failure. Our hypothesis is supported by an article from 1957 in the Spanish medical literature which due to a translation error has been construed by several authors to be the only existing example of calorie restriction with good nutrition. We contend for reasons cited that there was no reduction in calories overall, but that the subjects were eating, on alternate days, either 900 calories or 2300 calories, averaging 1600, and that body weight was maintained. Thus they consumed either 56% or 144% of daily caloric requirement. The subjects were in a residence for old people, and all were in perfect health and over 65. Over three years, there were 6 deaths among 60 study subjects and 13 deaths among 60 ad lib-fed controls, non-significant difference. Study subjects were in hospital 123 days, controls 219, highly significant difference. We believe widespread use of this pattern of eating could impact influenza epidemics and other communicable diseases by improving resistance to infection. In addition to the health effects, this pattern of eating has proven to be a good method of weight control, and we are continuing to study the process in conjunction with the NIH.

Has anyone heard about this, or about any negative aspects?

I’m reviving an old post here, but I just stumbled across this article on fasting, which is interesting. It mentions someone who did a 382-day fast, which is difficult to believe. I wonder how many calories were in the yeast they fed him. :thinking:

My latest self-experiment is to stop eating somewhere between 2 and 5 pm and just ingest water until the morning (generally about 14-18 hours of fasting per day). Over the past few years, I’ve tried all of the types of intermittent fasting mentioned at the bottom, and I think there is something to it.


Very interesting, Josh. Thanks for the link.

Over the last couple of years - for health (as opposed to weight-related) reasons - I’ve done several 5-day fasts (1000 calories on day 1, 300-400 or so each day for the next five).

At one point I was doing one a month, but have since changed to one every three months. I tend to combine them with about 30 miles of brisk walking a week, which often means my overall calorie intake is even further reduced. I don’t recommend this approach to anyone else, as I’m aware that, depending on your state of health, it may not be sensible/advisable. (Most reputable sources recommend something in the region of 800 calories a day; I happen to find that 400 is quite manageable for me. Again, I don’t necessarily recommend it to others.)

I have always felt much more alert - physically and mentally - both during and after the fasts. I’m sure the science is sound on the beneficial effects, though no serious fast should be undertaken lightly and, depending on your health, it’s always advisable to check with your doctor first.

Here are links to two more articles:

I’m not sure my memory is any the better for the fasts, but - at the worst - I like to think they’re doing me no harm. To date, I’d have to say I’ve benefited from them. It’s a fascinating area, whatever!


I’ve been doing something similar for the last 2 weeks. I try to only eat in the time between midday and 6pm (6 hour window where I usually eat 2 meals) and the rest of the day I only drink water (at least 3 liters per day if possible). This isn’t really a big change since I never really ate breakfast in the first place, so the only change is to eat dinner earlier.

I’ll try this for at least a month to see if it has a positive effect on my (usually too high) blood pressure.

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I aim for at least 3 liters/quarts of water per day too. (It isn’t precise because water in bottles here sometimes comes in liters, while everything else is in quarts.) I don’t feel thirst in a normal way so the only way I can be sure to drink enough is to measure it. I drink 1-2 quarts in the morning to be sure I don’t leave home dehydrated.

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So far, I’m about 36 days into the current time-restricted feeding experiment.

It also became a low-sodium diet about 3 weeks ago, keeping sodium intake between 530-1060 mg per day (measuring 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of salt for the daily allowance). I have to cook everything from scratch in order to maintain that goal. The only exceptions to the “from scratch” rule is an occasional can of sardines (the kind with no salt or oil added) and some vinegar.

It’s an extremely strict, vegan+fish, high-nutrient diet without any empty calories or junk in it. (example)

This is my first time on a low sodium diet, and I don’t miss the salt. Sometimes I end up eating less than 500 mg of sodium in a day, but I think 500 is a recommended minimum from the American Heart Association.

I try to eat at least 30 species of plants per week to be sure I’m getting a wide variety of nutrients and keeping gut microbes healthy. A couple of days ago I kept track of what I ate, and there were at least 32 species that day.

An example day's plant species
  1. adzuki beans
  2. almonds
  3. avocado
  4. banana
  5. blackberries
  6. blueberries
  7. Brazil nuts
  8. broccoli
  9. buckwheat groats
  10. cabbage
  11. cantaloupe
  12. carrots
  13. cauliflower
  14. celery
  15. daikon (white and purple)
  16. garlic
  17. ginger
  18. grapes
  19. kale
  20. lime
  21. moqua
  22. onions
  23. orange
  24. orange sweet potato
  25. parsnip
  26. purple yam
  27. rutabaga
  28. salad mix (assorted greens)
  29. sesame seeds
  30. sunflower seeds
  31. walnuts
  32. watermelon

(plus a small can of sardines,1/2 tsp of salt, and a little vinegar)

(Broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower are all the same species, but they are different enough varieties that I list them separately.)

The idea might sound strange, but I’ve been feeling significantly better and will continue for at least another month. :slight_smile:

Has your doc told you that you should go on a low sodium diet? I ask because there was an interesting article in Scientific American a while back on how we should reevaluate our stance on sodium. It’s a persuasive case – meat was salted as a preservative for at least a thousand years, and the sodium intake in the past was higher than it is today; what’s more, Japan has a very high sodium level yet are strikingly healthy and don’t seem worse for the wear.

I would be much more weary about having too little sodium than too much, especially if you’re drinking more water than the average person (excess water displaces sodium). The symptoms of too little sodium is brain fog and trouble concentrating; the symptoms of much is less noticeable. Speaking of electrolytes, they sell a great product called Lo-Salt which is half salt and half potassium. Many people who fast use it and it’s highly advocated on Reddit’s fasting forum:

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There is so much conflicting information out there, it’s difficult to come to a conclusion. Even the article says, “For every study that suggests that salt is unhealthy, another does not.”

I’ve read some other recent news about sodium. One was Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017.

In 2017, 11 million (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 10–12) deaths and 255 million (234–274) DALYs were attributable to dietary risk factors. High intake of sodium (3 million [1–5] deaths and 70 million [34–118] DALYs), low intake of whole grains (3 million [2–4] deaths and 82 million [59–109] DALYs), and low intake of fruits (2 million [1–4] deaths and 65 million [41–92] DALYs) were the leading dietary risk factors for deaths and DALYs globally and in many countries. Dietary data were from mixed sources and were not available for all countries, increasing the statistical uncertainty of our estimates.

I didn’t read the study very closely though.

Meat was salted in places that had access to salt, but did most humans have access to salt during their development? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that many hunter-gatherer cultures (most of our history) didn’t eat a lot of salt unless they were near the ocean or another salt source.

I’d guess that salt is just one of the things that affect Japanese health, but I don’t really know.

I haven’t come to any conclusions about it, but I’m feeling significantly better during this experiment, so I’m going to continue for a while longer. :slight_smile: