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The benefits of fasting three days a week

A weight loss program based on research carried out by CSIRO scientists has found that fasting can be an effective way to lose weight and stay healthy.

Participants in the 16-week trial lost an average of 11 kg and saw improvements in cholesterol, insulin, glucose and blood pressure.

"This was the largest study exploring the effects of an intermittent fasting style of diet on weight loss, health and nutrient status," CSIRO Research Dietitian Dr Jane Bowen said.

"In addition to improvement in weight loss and overall health, we also observed psychological improvements, with participants indicating better control over eating habits."

Intermittent fasting (and the similar style alternate day fasting) has recently gained scientific and consumer interest.

The research combined intermittent fasting with meal replacement shakes and a "Flexi" day where participants had one day a week to enjoy the food or drinks they love.

Traditional diets rely on energy to be restricted every day in order to achieve weight loss, which can be difficult for people to maintain long term.

A number of relatively short studies have shown that intermittent fasting results in equivalent weight loss and metabolic improvements, including loss of fat mass, blood pressure, glycemic control and markers of cardiovascular disease risk.

Few studies have compared the effects of intermittent fasting and continuous energy restriction longer term.

The CSIRO study took a novel look at using meal replacements as part of an intermittent fasting regimen to measure the effects of intermittent fasting for weight loss on nutritional status.

The Flexi diet was launched in 2017 in collaboration with the creators of the Impromy weight loss program, Probiotec.

"Losing weight can be challenging with results often limited by an individual's ability to stick with a diet," Dr Bowen said.

"The Flexi program offers a flexible alternative to traditional diets, which could help Australians to fit a weight loss diet around their busy, social lifestyles."

The Flexi program includes a recipe book and a website that includes personalised meal plans, progress tracking tools and a tailored virtual consultation designed by CSIRO dietitians and behavioural scientists.

As dieters progress through the program towards their goals, meal plans can be modified to incorporate more whole foods for a long-term approach to weight maintenance.

The Flexi program is available now in pharmacies.

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