Alternate day ‘starvation’ diet: what do we think?

Dr James Johnson, a plastic surgeon from New Orleans, has recently hit the news because he has invented a new weight loss idea: alternate day calorie restriction (fast) diet. Dr Johnson is reported to have taken an interest in weight loss as a result of witnessing his patients struggle with this very issue.

How does it work? He reports that it turns on the SIRT1 gene, nicknamed the skinny gene. Research says that ‘upon food withdrawal Sirt1 protein binds to and represses genes controlled by the fat regulator’ SIRT 1 has been found to be a key regulator of energy and metabolic homeostasis.

SIRT1 is charged with repairing DNA within the body and suppressing certain genes. Gene silencing, as this suppression is called, is important because if the wrong genes become activated, then the cell’s function could be destroyed. It may be that cases of Alzheimer’s and diabetes occur because of this type of genetic malfunction.


Resveratrol, found in the skin of red grapes and in other fruits and is sold as a nutritional supplement, is also associated with this new fat loss miracle diet rumour. There are very few clinical trials and research results to prove that Resveratrol does help with weight loss in humans, but there have been positive results in trials on rats. However, the SIRT1 gene is in fact SIRT2 in rats, slightly different (obviously!) so who knows what the human variants will be. I am sure time and more research will tell as we as a human race strive to find the cheat / easy way to eat what we like and not get any fatter, or equally, strive to find the solution to eternal youth. There is still no proof it works in humans. in fact the only test that has been done on humans resulted in discovering that levels of resveratrol equivalent to 100 bottles of red wine a day would be needed to have any type of effect.

There are research reports that suggest that SIRT1 does help with fat metabolism in humans, but again, it is still based on research on animals, as is the suggestion that revestrol works on humans. Here is another research report that claims SIRT1 helps with fat loss in humans, but again, it is based on research on mice.

This article says SIRT1 and SIRT2 may serve as key regulators for obesity however it doesn’t say who was tested, it just says ‘subjects’. The closest I can get to actual evidence is this trial, which says they tested the functionality in a human an mouse gene, but have only done the fat trial on mice.



bone health — while evidence suggests that CR may support long-term skeletal health, weight loss is often accompanied by reduced bone mass.

children, adolescents, and young adults (under approx 21) should be advised against starting CR. Physical growth may be impaired by calorie restriction, as observed in lab animals. In addition, mental development and physical changes to the brain take place in late adolescence and early adulthood that could be negatively affected by calorie restriction.

hunger (both psychological and physical effects), cravings, or food obsession — thoughts about food sometimes increase while practicing CR. For some, this may interfere with other aspects of their life. On the other hand. Many people come to welcome hunger, knowing that the hunger hormones. ghrelin and orexin are good for the brain and the heart.

menstrual irregularity — dramatic weight loss can sometimes interfere with reproductive function in women. Women planning to get pregnant soon, should not begin CR until after having (and weaning) their baby.

decreased testosterone Testosterone production often reduces at the beginning of CR practice. The beauty of the process is that the capability of producing this and other homrmones is preserved, so as calorie restrictors age, they become more likely to have higher levels of many hormones than their peers.

rapid weight loss (greater than 1 – 2 lbs/wk) — may do more harm than good, as noted in animal studies. We recommend changing your diet gradually, focusing at first on changing the quality of your diet: many people find that improving their diets by replacing low-nutrition, high-Calorie foods (such as sugar, gflours, and high-saturated-fat) with high-nutrition, low-Calorie foods (notably vegetables and fruit to a lesser degree) will lead to some weight loss even without any attempt to reduce Calories. Once your overall diet has improved, allow our body to take as long as it needs to reach your stable weight or calorie target.

Slower Metabolism Metabolism is the rate at which the body burns fuel for energy. The basal metabolic rate is the minimum number of calories necessary to perform daily basic functions such as breathing, growth, cellular repair and digestion, according to When calories are restricted over a long period of time, the body will compensate by holding on to the few calories that are consumed. Instead of burning calories freely, the body will perform basic life processes more slowly to conserve fuel. This can actually lead to weight gain.

CR represents a dramatic change in diet. This can attract people attracted to the extreme, who may push the limits of safe or healthy CR practice. Some anecdotal reports of CR-induced psychological disturbances, including anorexia, bingeing, excessive food thoughts and fantasies. These have not been shown in peer-reviewed publications.

Results from a few clinical trials suggest that very low fat diets are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Fat TV diet shows made me fatter, said these ladies, who did a weight loss diet on a national TV programme, but“The show didn’t teach me a single thing about exercise or nutrition. Like most failed dieters, I already knew what I should be doing – which is eating less and exercising more”.

Anthony Colpo, like me, also tried the very low fat diet. He, like me, came off WORSE for it. It is worth reading Anthony’s story, I concur completely.


My DIET story

I used weight watchers to help me lose weight. Weight watchers is structured on the very low fat idea, encouraging members they can eat what they want if they opt for the low fat option. It does work. But, it is a short fix, with longer term side effects. I got to my goal weight relatively quickly. People thought I would not bother keeping it up, and like every other ‘diet’, when I stopped, I would balloon back to my original weight. They were wrong. I discovered triathlon, and began exercising. Very quickly I discovered I was rather good, and in 2009 I was accepted onto team GB, I have competed at that level ever since. At the same time, I was still following weight watchers, to make sure I stayed at the same weight. I found my training harder and harder to maintain. My performances were tailing off, I was in fact getting slower, I was always tired. Then I developed a medical problem. Tests revealed that my thyroid was showing signs that it may go into failure. I was very closely monitored. I looked at it philosophically, I was about ‘that age’ and a tablet would right it, once we knew which way it was going to go. On a completely separate note, I had also decided to ditch weight watchers because I was fed up of being tired and not being able to do my training properly. When I went back to a full fat diet, but more balanced, properly calculated and adapted to my training load, I felt much much better, and did not gain any fat back. I also discovred as my thryoid was still being monitored, that it in fact was showing normal again. It is still normal, and I have had no further medical problems. Yes, I have not gained the fat back either.


In this report he concludes with ‘My advice is to ignore the hype surrounding resveratrol and eat a balanced diet that contains adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables.’ I have not found any evidence to suggest that we should be rushing off to start the calorie restriction ‘alternate day fast’ diet. Nor have I found any evidence to support that revesterol works and a weight loss aid in humans either.

Sorry, but I still believe that the best way to reach your healthy weight and lose your excess fat is by the good old balanced diet and exercise combination.

What Ryding2Health do differently is we don’t adopt the word ‘diet’, its a nutrition plan. We don’t believe in ‘weight loss’ its fat loss. As you become fitter and leaner, you will build muscle, which weighs more than fat.

We will TEACH you what healthy eating is, TEACH you how to create and maintain your own healthy eating plan that is balanced and tailored to you needs, and help you understand how best to balance that will REAL LIFE – i.e. the odd take away, the odd glass of wine.

There are no YOU MUST NOTS in our diet. It is all in your control.

To find out more email us today.


Other References

One Comment on “Alternate day ‘starvation’ diet: what do we think?

  1. Pingback: Are the New Year fad diets safe? « Melanie Ryding – Ryding2Health BLOG

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