Each week, OMRF Vice President of Research Dr. Rod McEver opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel.
Intermittent fasting, a weight loss technique that requires people to eat on a specific schedule, has gained popularity recently. Does this diet really work?
Dr. McEver Prescribes
The buzz around intermittent fasting may be new, but the practice of periodically restricting eating dates to Ancient Greece. Increasingly, evidence has shown that its enthusiasts often lose weight, but timing appears not to be the primary cause.
In 2020, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, studied time-restricted eating in 116 adults for 12 weeks. Control group participants ate three meals per day with snacks, while the time-restricted group could eat anything they wanted between noon and 8 p.m. At the end of the study, both groups lost about the same amount of weight.
Last month, The New England Journal of Medicine published a rigorous, yearlong study of intermittent fasting in 139 people with obesity. Researchers divided the volunteers into two groups. For 12 months, one segment ate a calorie-restricted diet between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., while the control group could eat at any time of day but with calorie restriction.
At the study’s conclusion, the scientists found subjects in both groups lost an average of 14 to 18 pounds and experienced similar changes in their percentage of body fat, blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.
Limiting calories, not the time one consumes them, seems to explain the benefits of intermittent fasting. Nevertheless, the technique could serve as a useful tool for those who want to restrict their calorie intake but have not had success with more traditional calorie-counting methods.
Especially with the prevalence of obesity — which affects more than 40% of U.S. adults and is associated with deadly conditions ranging from diabetes and heart disease to stroke and cancer — we must recognize that one diet does not fit all. So, we should encourage people to choose the individual approaches that work best for them.
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