Periodic fasting is good for the health and can help you lose weight, even if you gorge afterwards. It’s known that mice live longer on a severely restricted calorie diet and it protects them from diseases and stress as well. But do we have to live a life of starvation? Scientists now think we can get the same benefits from alternately fasting and feasting.

Mice living on a semi-starvation diet have lower weights, less risk of diabetes and Alzheimer’s, and less stress. When scientists fed mice every other day, but let them gorge on the days they ate, the mice had the same health benefits as mice living on a 40% reduced calorie diet all the time. At first researchers thought this was because the mice were eating less overall, but they found this wasn’t true. They now want to find out if alternate feasting and fasting works for humans as well.

Mark P. Mattson, of the National Institute on Aging, wants to compare the health of a group of people who eat normal three meals a day with a similar group, eating the same diet and same amount of food, but eating it all within four hours and then fasting for 20 hours before eating again. “Overeating is a big problem now in this country, it’s particularly troublesome that a lot of children are overweight. It’s still unclear the best way to somehow get people to eat less,” he says. “?One possibility is skipping a meal a day. Our study suggests that skipping meals is not bad for you.

“We think what happens is going without food imposes a mild stress on cells and cells respond by increasing their ability to cope with more severe stress,” Mattson says. Stress may make the body more susceptible to the diseases of aging, so being able to cope with it better keeps you young.

The real truth is almost never what it seems.

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