As some people have noted on comments here previously, one of the key advantages of intermittent fasting diets is their apparent impact on Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1).  It is the lowering of the IGF-1 levels that is meant to be behind the cancer-reducing properties of intermittent fasting diets like ADF.  In the Michael Mosley doco, Eat, Fast and Live Longer, he placed great emphasis on the extent to which the 5:2 diet might reduce his IGF-1 levels.

I am not sure what evidence there is that links IGF-1 levels to cancer .  One of the main arguments seems to be that the people with Laron Syndrome  (a type of dwarfism), who have really low levels of IGF-1, don’t get cancer (they don’t get diabetes either).  The main study on this related to a group of people in Ecuador that Dr Mosley referred to in his documentary.  This was a 22 year study published in 2011 that monitored a group of 99 Ecuadorians with Laron syndrome and compared them close relatives who were of regular height. Over the period of the study about 20 per cent of the relatives died of cancer, but none of the people with Laron-syndrome got cancer.

Unfortunately, the people with Laron syndrome in the study don’t actually seem to live any longer.  In the study, their common killers were age-related diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Compared with their relatives of regular height, they also “died much more frequently from accidents, alcohol-related causes, and convulsive disorders.”  I guess not getting sick makes them feel bulletproof!?

What got me thinking about this again was that font of knowledge, the Daily Mail.  They had a very good article in today’s paper describing the journalist, Anna Pursglove’s 5:2 diet.   At the start she had her IGF-1 levels tested and then had it re-tested a month later when it is lower by a “statistically significant” amount.

So I was wondering if anyone else has had their IGF-1 levels tested/re-tested and what were the outcomes?  Has anyone done any looking into the science behind IGF-1 levels and cancer?

It also relates to another discussion about high protein diets, because from the little I have read, diets higher in protein tend to promote IGF-1 levels.  Now, since going on ADF I have probably increased my protein intake relative to my carbohydrate intake, particularly on fast days (although while it is a higher proportion, because of the small number of calories it is still not a large amount).  Does this mean that having a lower-carbohydrate, higher protein diet is counteracting the cancer fighting benefits of the ADF regime.  Any thoughts??

Apologies for the delay in posting.  I was away on holidays and did a lot of eating and not much fasting, so didnt really have much to post about.  It was actually good to have a break.  We were staying with friends for most of our holiday and it was both hard to fast, and a bit of an imposition on our hosts (or at least, hard to do without sounding like a bit of a killjoy). So instead I focused on doing exercise and eating healthy.

While I have been back a week, I had jetlag and my experience last time with jetlag and fasting was that it was better to just go with the flow – you get hungry at the strangest times and with tiredness, I just did not have the emotional energy to do fasting.

It is amazing though, after a break, how keen I was to get back to ADF.  It is a good long term sign I think.

I passed the three month mark while I  was away and did manage to have a peak at the scales.  I was 237 pounds (107.5 kg), which means I have lost 21 pounds or around 10kg.  Very happy with that but still a long way to go.


It was a good start to the last week fasting, Monday and Wednesday were both great fasting days.  Thursday I had a one day stomach bug so didn’t eat much anyway and, in hindsight, I should not have tried to fast on Friday.  I did try, but by about 5 pm on Friday I started to get very jittery, so decided to call it off.  It actually felt really good to take a day off.  I did not fast on Saturday and today I did a big bike ride (3 and half hours) and in the past I have found that these are not really good days to fast.  So effectively, I have had four days off.

It probably won’t get much better this week.  Mon and Wed will both be fast days, but on Thursday we go to New York for a long weekend, and I am definitely not going to fast in New York – too much good food.  But after that we go to Florida for a couple of weeks, so I am going to treat that as “fat camp” – lots of fasting and exercise.

I was speaking with some friends today who I have co-opted to ADF (I have quite a good sales pitch now) and after some discussion we had two questions we thought might be useful to get views on:

1. Irritability – a common theme was how irritable we got on fast days.  For me, I find that by about 5 pm on a fast day I am not a very nice human.  Has anyone found any good strategies for dealing with this?  I tend to get out of the house, but that is a bit of a cop out and really only a very short term solution.

2. Food choices on non-fasting days – The BBC programme was pretty clear that, from a health perspective, it did not matter on non-fast days what you ate on non-fasting days.  But, in terms of weight loss, it did not really address what food choices are best?  Has anyone followed any specific plans (eg low-fat; low-carb; high-carb etc) and have they had any spectacular success in losing weight following a particular strategy?

Any and all ideas welcome!

I think I should change the name of this blog to Alt Day Gluttony, such is my lack of success in controlling my food intake on eating days.  I am finding fast days fine, because I have an objective and a limit and I am happy to work within that constraint.  But eating days are a different kettle of fish.  What is more, I have had absolutely no success in limiting my alcohol consumption on eating days.

Last weekend was a bit of a write-off.  We went to Camber Sands in East Sussex for a best of british beach holiday.  As an Australian, most of my english friends think I am barking mad for liking english beaches, but I think they have a certain charm and Camber Sands is definitely one of our favourites.  But altdayfasting was definitely off the agenda for the weekend.  Living in Paris, one of the great joys of going to England is to be able to get decent bacon, sausages and meat pies (although Marks and Spencer opening up on  Champs Elysees has kind of killed that thrill).  First stop across the channel was to Sainsbury’s for various pork products and lashings of “taste the difference” cheap red wine.  We were lucky enough to meet up with friends for the weekend and that, combined with my juvenile excitement at being able to eat unlimited bacon baps, meant lots of eating and drinking and no fasting for three days.

Nevertheless, I got back on the wagon as soon as I got back to Paris and still seem to be losing weight, albeit at a slower rate than I am sure I would if I showed some moderation.

On a more positive note, I started running this week.  Prior to Monday, I had not gone for a run for over a year.  I have always enjoyed running (occassionally), but stopped last year because I found with my weight that it was just too hard on my leg muscles. I have started slowly but it is good to get back into it.  I think upping my physical exercise might be a more successful strategy for increasing my weight loss than trying to moderate my food intake on eating days.

Back from my ride which was great fun and went without a hitch.  From a diet/eating perspective, and having come off a solid couple of months of ADF it was a really interesting experience.  After the first day,one of my friends said his cycling computer had calculated that he had burned 7000 calories in that day’s ride (we did around 8 hours of hard riding each day).  Add to that the 2500 calories needed just to keep the lights on and we were probably going through between 9000 and 10000 calories per day, or the equivalent of the energy from about 4 days normal eating.  Needless to say, I did not feel the need to watch what I ate and actually found it difficult to take in enough food each day.  As a result, I have been really looking forward  to a fasting day.

Today is a fasting day and its rainy and cold, so I am tucking into the miso soup.   But, after a couple of months of ADF, I am scratching around for new recipes.  Micky B has previously posted a lentil soup recipe which seemed to have a willing audience (I haven’t tried it yet, but will) so I thought it might be good to start a thread where people can post some low-cal recipes that they use on fasting days.

Someone previously posted this group of recipes published in the Telegraph, which are each around 250 calories.  We have tried many of these and they are pretty spot on.  And, for those of you who have not seen it, this is Micky B’s lentil soup recipe:

Lentil soup- 230 calories

Half teaspoon olive oil (20)
30 grams onion finely chopped (15)
Small clove garlic finely chopped
Fresh Ginger, red chilli, finely chopped about half teaspoon each
Half teaspoon ground coriander
Half teaspoon garam masala
Half teaspoon tomato puree
1/2pint water
60grams red lentils(140)
Teaspoon marigold vegetable stock powder (13)
100 g mixed Carrot, courgette celery, finely chopped(30)

In small pan gently fry onion, garlic, Ginger, chilli in oil till soft, add spices and stir for a minute. add rest of the ingredients and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, till the lentils are just soft.
nb it is tricky to estimate the calories in the tiny quantities of spices and other flavourings, so I estimated 12 calories. Can be garnished with fresh coriander. You may be tempted to leave out the oil, but it is necessary to bring out the flavours.
I crumble half a rye crisp bread into it (15 cals) as ‘croutons’

Got back from Australia on Thursday morning.  From a fasting perspective it was not the best trip, but not disastrous.  Over 10 days I managed three fasting days.  I tried more, but invariably was going out to dinner and then would have a glass of wine…..

Anyway, I am not too disappointed.  On Friday here, I had a fast day, and I am fasting again today, so effectively I will have managed to have had five fasting days in the last fortnight.

This will be my last fasting day for the next week though – on Tuesday I leave for my bike ride from Geneva to Nice and I really think it would be both unwise and impossible to continue during that.  The ride is from Wednesday to Saturday, so I am thinking that two eating days before the ride will be necessary to get my glycogen stores fully up to speed (i.e. carbo loading) and then the Sunday following the ride I will also eat as a normal day to recover.

I am treating this as a week off, and quite looking forward to it.  When I have previously done long rides like this I have not lost any weight – I don’t know why , perhaps replacing fat with muscle?? – but anyway I am not worried for this week.  Just want to enjoy the ride.

I had blood tests done in Australia, and my doctor had a set of results from 2007 which provided a good baseline.  My fasting glucose in 2007 was 5.5 mmol/L; in June this year when I had some test done it was 5.8; and last week it was 5.2.  My cholesterol level went from 4.9 mmol/L down to 4.4 mmol/L (at the lower middle end of the normal range of 3.9-5.5). (Unfortunately, the test did not split up into HDL and LDL cholesterol).

When I did the tests in 2007 I was about 15 kg lighter and very fit, so the fact that my numbers are lower than then to me says that this diet is doing something positive.

The only negative is that the weight loss is perhaps a bit slower than I hoped.  I think I am still losing weight  – I was measured at the doctor and was 108.8kg which is down about a kg from my previous measure, but using a different set of scales.  Anyway, I want to up the rate of weight loss and so I have decided to severely cut down my alcohol consumption and see if that helps.


After my slight stumble early in the week due to the travel, I have managed two good fast days here now (wed and friday), despite lots of social engagements.  So I am feeling back on track.

I went to a cardiac specialist yesterday to have my heart checked. I am going on my ride from Geneva to Nice in early October and I wanted to make sure I was in sufficiently robust health to take it on.  The specialist performed an echo stress test.  Basically they did an EKG and echo test (ultrasound) of my heart, made me go on a treadmill and get up to my maximum heart rate, then while my heart was at the high rate did another echo and EKG.  I haven’t got the official results yet, but the specialist said I did not have any heart disease and was not in any danger of having a heart attack “in the short to medium term” (I think the implication being that given my general physical condition, I probably have a high risk in the long term if I don’t lose weight).

So, pretty good news.  I also was meant to have some blood tests taken yesterday.  They were “fasting” blood tests meaning that you had to do them without eating before hand.  This I can do!  When I have had these things in the past, I have always rushed down to the clinic at 9 am to get it out of the way so I could eat, and the wait lists are always long because everyone is doing the same thing.  Yesterday, I went down to the clinic at around 2 pm.  I was in no hurry because it was a fasting day so I thought I would avoid the rush.  It turns out that they suggested I not do the test because I had been fasting for more than 12 hours.  Too clever by half!

So blood tests next week.  I get the results on Wednesday and will post.

It has been, I think through no fault of my own, a bad few days for the diet.  Sunday was meant to be a diet day, but I postponed it because I was planning a big bike ride, only for the bike ride to fall through because of a mechanical fault with my bike.  Then Monday I was planning to fast leading up to my plane trip to Australia on Monday night.  

Sunday night I had a vague suspicion that I had got my flight time wrong, so I looked it up and I actually left Sunday night not Monday night.  So I had a mad scramble to get to the airport.  I thought I would fast on the plane, but out of sheer and utter boredom I chowed down whatever they put in front of me (I did miss one meal – I can’t remember whether they called it breakfast or dinner).  At the stopover in Singapore, the Qantas lounge has a pretty good trough and so I admit to having a few glasses of champagne and some nibbles.  It is a full 24 hours on planes to get from Europe to Australia – you cannot possibly do that, and fast.

Then yesterday I was so jet lagged and hungry that I could not face fasting.  The net result is that my last fasting day was last Friday!  I woke up this morning feeling that if I did not fast, then it would all go to pot, so I was actually looking forward to fasting today and have been very determined.  But, it is halfway through the day, and it is looking like it is going to be a bit of a struggle.  I am sure if I get through today then all will be okay.  In a way, it was nice to have a bit of a break, so I should take it as a positive.  Hopefully now I am back on the wagon.

The best laid plans – today was meant to be a fasting day, but I was planning to go on a 60 mile bike ride, so decided to swap it with tomorrow.  Had a huge breakfast and went out riding, but after 15 miles had a broken spoke (this happens when you are overweight) so had to return.  So now I have burned a fasting day, and did not get my ride.  Oh well.

I snuck in a look at the scales this week (after a ride, so not really fair) and I had got under 110 kg (109.5 kg, 17 stone 4 pounds).  I am sure that weight loss milestones are dependent on whether you follow metric or imperial measurements. I was brought up with metric, so for me cracking 110kg is a big deal, whereas whatever is happening in terms of stones and pounds is meaningless to me.

The other reason this was a significant milestone is that it got my standard body mass index (BMI) to 29.9.  Your body mass index is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres (for imperial measures it is your weight in pounds multiplied by 703 divided by the square of your height in inches).  A BMI of between 18 and 25 is considered normal weight; a BMI of between 25-30 is overweight; over 30 is considered obese.  So by getting down under 110 kg, I have managed to get myself from the obese category to the just overweight category.

It is worth bearing in mind that the BMI calculations are quite imprecise and are a rough guide only.  They also are not particularly accurate for tall people, and an adjusted BMI is available which accounts for this.  This page has a calculator which provides both a standard BMI and an adjusted BMI for tall people.  On the adjusted measure, I have a BMI of 29.3.

Tomorrow will be an extended fasting day – I am flying to Australia in the evening and I figure the 24 hours of flights will be a perfect time to fast (although I am probably one of the few people that doesn’t mind airline food).

I am sure that the biggest factor in the success or failure of a diet/lifestyle change is belief.  By belief, I mean both having a strong belief in the efficacy of what you are doing to produce the desired results, and a belief in your capacity to meet the challenge you are committing yourself to.  For the latter, from the beginning I have had a reasonably strong belief in my ability to do alternate day fasting, and actually this belief has grown over the last month as I have been able to keep rigorously to the plan.

In terms of believing in the capacity of altdayfasting to deliver on the health and weight loss benefits, I guess my belief has not been quite as strong.  The Horizon program, East, Fast and Live Longer, was certainly very persuasive.  In fact, I re-watched it last night and would recommend that if you are following the diet you do the same.  Watching it again made me realize what is important for me is not primarily the weight loss (which, despite my obsession with weight changes on this blog, I now see as a by-product of the change to my lifestyle)  but the reduction in health risks across a range of factors.

Altdayfasting potentially offers benefits in reducing risks across cancer, diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases and Alzheimer’s. Cancer does not particularly worry me because it has never greatly touched my life, but heart disease and Alzheimer’s both have and, in terms of health risks as I get older, I would probably rank these as my two top concerns.

Although re-watching the program did reinforce my commitment, I am still interested in going further into the science of the diet because I did question whether some of the linkages (i.e. between lower IGF-1 and cancer) were as well understood as made out on the show.  However, one very reassuring thing to me was that the scientists who were involved in the research had invariably adopted some form of intermittent fasting in their own lives, which suggested that they had a high level of belief in the benefits of intermittent fasting.

I have decided to get some blood tests next week to see what my cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels etc are.  I will post the results. Unfortunately, I don’t have a baseline for most of the relevant things, although I do know my fasting glucose level in June was 5.8 mmol/l (which is at the high end of the normal range).



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