New study shows intermittent fasting may not be that effective. Here’s why

The new study on intermittent fasting was conducted on 139 patients and was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, on April 21.
How effective is intermittent fasting: A representative image of a plate of salad
How effective is intermittent fasting: A representative image of a plate of salad
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A new study has indicated that time restricted eating, popularly known as intermittent fasting, may not be as effective in weight loss and that the diet method is not “more beneficial” than other calorie-based diets. The new study titled ‘Calorie Restriction with or without Time-Restricted Eating in Weight Loss’ was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, on April 21.

“Among patients with obesity, a regimen of time-restricted eating was not more beneficial with regard to reduction in body weight, body fat, or metabolic risk factors than daily calorie restriction,” the study stated. The year-long study was conducted on 139 patients with obesity in Guangzhou, China. They were split into two groups, with one group eating only between 8 am and 4 pm with calorie restriction and daily calorie restriction alone, for a period of 12 months.

The study stated that all the participants were instructed to follow a calorie-restricted diet that consisted of 1500 to 1800 kilocalories per day for men and 1200 to 1500 kilocalories per day for women. At the end of the study, the researchers found that “changes in weight were not significantly different in the two groups at the 12-month assessment.”

According to John Hopkins medicine, intermittent fasting is “an eating plan that switches between fasting and eating on a regular schedule.” This involves having a specific period of time for eating within each 24-hour period. One might try eating only for a certain 8-hour-long window in a day and fast for the remainder of the hour. Or one can eat only one or two meals a day for a certain number of days. There are many different intermittent fasting schedules one can choose from. During the times when you’re not eating, the person is advised to drink water and “zero-calorie” beverages such as black coffee or tea, in the fasting. However, one is advised to consult with their doctor before planning their dietary schedules.

“The method has gained popularity because it is a weight-loss strategy that is simple to follow, which may enhance adherence,” the study pointed out.

At the end of the 12-month trial, the researchers conclusively said that it was the intake of calories that mattered more than the restriction of time. “Caloric intake restriction explained most of the beneficial effects of a time-restricted eating regimen,” they said.

Further, the researchers also said that they found that “the 8-hour time-restricted–eating regimen did not produce greater weight loss than the regimen of daily calorie restriction, with both regimens resulting in similar caloric deficits.

In addition, time-restricted eating and daily calorie restriction produced similar effects with respect to reductions in body fat, visceral fat, blood pressure, glucose levels, and lipid levels over the 12-month intervention period”, they said and concluded that the results indicated that caloric intake restriction explained most of the beneficial effects seen with the time-restricted eating regimen.

In the study, participants were aged between 18 and 75 years of age and had a body-mass index (BMI) between 28 and 45. However, those with acute or chronic viral hepatitis, malignant tumors, diabetes, serious liver dysfunction or chronic kidney disease, current smoking, serious cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease within 6 months before the study, severe gastrointestinal diseases or gastrointestinal surgery in the 12 months before the study, those in any active participation in a weight-loss program, those using medications that affect weight or energy balance, and are currently pregnant or planning pregnancy, were excluded.

However, it is to be noted that BMI is not an accurate way to predict the health of different demographics and races because it was created with data from only white Europeans. Research shows that there are biological and genetic differences in the relationship between weight, muscle mass and disease risk among different groups of people. BMI does not account for that, Dr Ganga Anand (PT), child birth educator, obstetrician and gynaecologist has said to Indian Express.

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