Glucose tolerance and skeletal muscle gene expression in response to alternate day fasting

Obes Res. 2005 Mar;13(3):574-81. doi: 10.1038/oby.2005.61.


Objective: Alternate day fasting may extend lifespan in rodents and is feasible for short periods in nonobese humans. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of 3 weeks of alternate day fasting on glucose tolerance and skeletal muscle expression of genes involved in fatty acid transport/oxidation, mitochondrial biogenesis, and stress response.

Research methods and procedures: Glucose and insulin responses to a standard meal were tested in nonobese subjects (eight men and eight women; BMI, 20 to 30 kg/m(2)) at baseline and after 22 days of alternate day fasting (36 hour fast). Muscle biopsies were obtained from a subset of subjects (n = 11) at baseline and on day 21 (12-hour fast).

Results: Glucose response to a meal was slightly impaired in women after 3 weeks of treatment (p < 0.01), but insulin response was unchanged. However, men had no change in glucose response and a significant reduction in insulin response (p < 0.03). There were no significant changes in the expression of genes involved in mitochondrial biogenesis or fatty acid transport/oxidation, although a trend toward increased CPT1 expression was observed (p < 0.08). SIRT1 mRNA expression was increased after alternate day fasting (p = 0.01).

Discussion: Alternate day fasting may adversely affect glucose tolerance in nonobese women but not in nonobese men. The gene expression results indicate that fatty acid oxidation and mitochondrial biogenesis are unaffected by alternate day fasting. However, the increased expression in SIRT1 suggests that alternate day fasting may improve stress resistance, a commonly observed feature of calorie-restricted rodents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Transport
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Fasting / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Food
  • Gene Expression*
  • Glucose Intolerance*
  • Histone Deacetylases / genetics
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Sirtuin 1
  • Sirtuins / genetics
  • Time Factors


  • Blood Glucose
  • Fatty Acids
  • Insulin
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SIRT1 protein, human
  • Sirtuin 1
  • Sirtuins
  • Histone Deacetylases