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    Diets that sound too good to be true are often just that. But a plan called intermittent fasting that frees its followers from calorie counting and carb cutting is quickly gaining traction in Silicon Valley. Scientific research suggests its followers are onto something big.

    Popularized by Bay Area health nuts who don't mind being guinea pigs for science, intermittent fasting (or simply "IF" among fans), involves limiting the time you eat to a specific time period each day. While most of us snack somewhat regularly from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep, intermittent fasters only "feed" within a strictly defined window, often from morning to afternoon or afternoon to evening.

    Silicon Valley loves it. One Bay Area group of enthusiasts called WeFast meets weekly to collectively break their fasts with a hearty morning meal. Facebook executive Dan Zigmond confines his eating to the narrow time slot of 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and many other CEOs and tech pioneers are sworn "IF" devotees.

    Despite not requiring followers to count calories, ban carbs, or restrict their eating to celery and juice, intermittent fasting has been shown to be just as helpful for weight loss as traditional diets. And animal studies hint that the plan could have a range of other health benefits from curbing cancer risk to even prolonging life.