Considerable interest has been shown in the ability of caloric restriction (CR) to improve multiple parameters of health and to extend lifespan. CR is the reduction of caloric intake - typically by 20 - 40% of ad libitum consumption - while maintaining adequate nutrient intake. Several alternatives to CR exist. CR combined with exercise (CE) consists of both decreased caloric intake and increased caloric expenditure. Alternate-day fasting (ADF) consists of two interchanging days; one day, subjects may consume food ad libitum (sometimes equaling twice the normal intake); on the other day, food is reduced or withheld altogether. Dietary restriction (DR) - restriction of one or more components of intake (typically macronutrients) with minimal to no reduction in total caloric intake - is another alternative to CR. Many religions incorporate one or more forms of food restriction. The following religious fasting periods are featured in this review: 1) Islamic Ramadan; 2) the three principal fasting periods of Greek Orthodox Christianity (Nativity, Lent, and the Assumption); and 3) the Biblical-based Daniel Fast. This review provides a summary of the current state of knowledge related to CR and DR. A specific section is provided that illustrates related work pertaining to religious forms of food restriction. Where available, studies involving both humans and animals are presented. The review includes suggestions for future research pertaining to the topics of discussion.
Good overview of much of the available research regarding caloric restriction and alternate day fasting (as well as health markers associated with religious fasting regimens).