Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Alternate Day Diet

Product Review

In the past I've pointed to various resources on intermittent fasting, including Eat Stop Eat and Leangains.

I've also pointed to Dr Johnson's Up day Down Day diet. Well, James Johnson has now written a book about his diet.

What is the diet?

The doctor's website explains the diet. It is a modified alternate day fast, as Matt recently explained. Here is how Johnson describes the diet:

It is an adaptation of an experimental model used in animal research. For 70 years scientist have recognized that animals fed 30 – 40% less calories than normal live 40% longer. In May 2003, an article was published showing that mice fed every other day had profound health effects which exceeded those seen in mice fed 40% less than normal every day.

Dr. Johnson invented a method which achieved these results in humans with the UpDayDownDay Diet™. Humans are generally unable to restrict their caloric intake even a modest amount on a daily basis. However, most motivated people can restrict themselves on an every other day basis to 50% or less of their normal calories. The discovery of this aspect of human behavior is the key to success. In other words we are able to do for one day what we are unable to do every day.

The scientific basis of our human experience is described in the article titled The effect on health of alternate day calorie restriction: Eating less and more than needed on alternate days prolongs life (see article).

On the “up” day you eat whatever you want and as much as you want. It is important to feel satisfied.

On the “down” day, you limit your intake to between 20% – 50% of normal. A guide to your caloric needs and a method to calculate the number of calories to consume is available here.

You might expect to be hungrier after a down day, but our research has shown that appetite is normal or decreased on the morning of an up day.
We strongly recommend using only commercially prepared meal replacement shakes for the first two weeks. This conditions you in several ways which promotes success.

What about the book??

Well the diet is explained in those paragraphs above and really there is not much to add. The book explains some of the science and the various health benefits of intermittent fasting. eh explains the benefits over simple Caloric Restriction (CR) and issues such as:

  • an anti-inflammatory effect
  • activation of SIRT1
  • a reduction in oxidative damage

The science is explained well and in accessible language.

There is a section on how to undertake the diet, with some general advice on healthy eating. Then - strangely - there comes a series of recipes for daily menus, with three meals a day that will give 500 calories. That section reads like something the publisher has told him to put in. Hey every diet book needs some recipes! Totally unnecessary if you ask me. The down day has you eating maybe 500 calories. There is really no need for a recipe for "Vegetable-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms" :

These giant mushrooms are so meaty that you may think you're eating a steak.

I don't think so.


Probably worth picking up from Amazon. The information is generally available from his website of from some of the places on the internet that collect IF research - like Steve's bookmarks - but the book is well written and explains things clearly.

The recipes are an unnecessary addition but it is a concession to the diet book market I suppose.

I think Brad's Eat Stop Eat or Fast 5 are good introductions and I would probably recommedn that people start there rather than with this.


Erik said...

In the end of the article mentioned ("The effect on health of alternate day calorie restriction"), they say that the results of an 8 week study was to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal (this was in january 2006). Does anyone know if that one is to be found anywhere?

Also, it would be interesting to read testimonials from people who have tried this way of eating for a while. The list of "potential health benefits" in that article is so vast which makes me a bit suspicious.


Chris said...

Hi Erik

There are some testimonials in the book.

I don't konw if there was a further publised study - you might find something in the bookmarks I linked to or ask on the Yahoo Fasting group.

Also Google the "QOD diet" for a similar approach.

Anonymous said...

Here is an article that he published this year:

Med Hypotheses. 2009 Apr;72(4):381-2. Epub 2009 Jan 9.

Pretreatment with alternate day modified fast will permit higher dose and frequency of cancer chemotherapy and better cure rates.
Johnson JB, John S, Laub DR.

Department of Surgery, LSUHSC School of Medicine, 4224 Houma Blvd, Suite 440, Metairie, LA 70006, United States. jim@jbjmd.com

Anonymous said...

Here is the publication of the study from the book:
Free Radic Biol Med. 2007 Mar 1;42(5):665-74.

Alternate day calorie restriction improves clinical findings and reduces markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in overweight adults with moderate asthma.
Johnson JB, Summer W, Cutler RG, Martin B, Hyun DH, Dixit VD, Pearson M, Nassar M, Telljohann R, Maudsley S, Carlson O, John S, Laub DR, Mattson MP.

John K said...

I just finished my first week on the Alternate Day Diet, and I am enjoying it. It definitely isn't for everyone, that is for sure.