Intermittent fasting is no better than a regular diet, study shows

(ORDO NEWS) — A popular diet trend, intermittent fasting, may not be as effective as a traditional diet for weight loss, according to a new randomized trial published this week.

The study found that Chinese people who were asked to fast while on a diet did lose weight in a year, but not much more than those who were asked to stick to a regular diet. There were also no significant differences found in other significant measures, such as change in body fat or metabolic risk factors.

In recent years, intermittent fasting has become one of the most popular types of diets. Proponents argue that by limiting food intake to a certain time, you can better burn body fat stores.

Some also argue that this makes it easier for people to limit their daily calorie intake. There are various methods of fasting, but popular ones include eating a small amount of food for two days a week and then eating normally for the rest of the week, or eating only during the daytime hours.

Some studies show that intermittent fasting is more beneficial than the traditional diet. But most of the data comes from animal studies or from observational or short-term studies in humans. The new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, appears to be a more rigorous test of its effectiveness.

The study involved 139 volunteers with a body mass index between 28 and 45 (a BMI over 25 is considered overweight, and a BMI over 30 is considered obese). They were randomized into two groups. Each group was told to limit their calorie intake for the following year: men were recommended 1500-1800 calories per day, women 1200-1500 calories per day.

One group was instructed to eat only from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Both groups also received nutritional shakes for the first six months and counseling throughout the year to help them stick to their diet.

By the end of the study, 118 volunteers had taken part. Those who followed intermittent fasting lost an average of 8 kilograms from baseline (about 17 pounds) compared to 6.3 kilograms (just under 14 pounds) lost by the control group the difference was not statistically significant.

Similarly, there were no significant differences in changes in other factors during the year, including waist circumference, body fat, blood pressure, glucose, and lipid levels (all of which improved from baseline). Mild adverse events such as fatigue, dizziness, and headaches were also equally common between the groups.

“In this 12-month study, we found that an 8-hour time-restricted diet did not lead to greater weight loss than a daily calorie restriction regimen, with both regimens resulting in a similar calorie deficit,” the authors write.

Long-term randomized controlled trials of various dietary practices are often difficult to find, in part because of the resources and effort that may be required to conduct them.

Therefore, these results may be particularly important. They are also consistent with the results of another larger randomized trial published in 2020 of more than 100 participants, which also found no difference in weight loss between groups over a 12-week period.

At the same time, the authors warn that their results have some limitations. First, the study involved members of the general population, and it is possible that fasting may have additional benefits for people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

The researchers also didn’t specifically try to measure how many total calories people burn on average per day or what their physical activity is. And, perhaps most importantly, the findings may not necessarily be generalizable to other populations or ethnic groups.

At the very least, the authors note, intermittent fasting appears to be as good as a traditional diet. So for those who prefer it, they say their results “suggest that the time-limited diet works as an alternative weight management option.”

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