When many people think of fasting, it's for some kind of religious or moral reason. But a few new studies are pointing to intermittent fasting as a viable way of losing and maintaining a healthy weight. Recent research has given rise to the idea of mini fasts as a way to control blood sugar, weight, and even help you live longer.

One study from England found women who followed a 5:2 diet, where they ate normally for five days a week, and ate 500 calories of lean protein the two other days, lost significantly more weight than women who tried to eat fewer calories all week.

These mini fasts can help lower your insulin levels, which can lead to lower levels of fat storage, but without affecting muscle mass.

Part of the success of these mini fasts is that people find them easier to follow.  And apart from the physical effects, many who have been on the diets report feeling more energized and focused.

The 5:2 diet is gaining in popularity in the United Kingdom, where  Dr. Michael Mosley has written books and created a documentary on the diet. He also has a website where he answers frequently asked questions.

Before starting any diet, you should always have a conversation with your doctor.

Read more from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.