Taking a two-week break from a diet actually helps people lose 50% more weight, new research demonstrates.
Intermittent dieting also helps keep the weight off, the researchers found.
The study compared two groups: one that dieted continuously for 16 weeks.
The other group, though, dieted two weeks on and two weeks off for a total of 32 weeks, thereby including 16 weeks of dieting.
Those who dieted continuously lost an average of 20 pounds (9 kg), while those who dieted intermittently lost 31 pounds (14 kg).
The intermittent dieters also maintained 18 pounds less weight six months after the end of the study.
Professor Nuala Byrne, the study’s first author, said:
“When we reduce our energy (food) intake during dieting, resting metabolism decreases to a greater extent than expected; a phenomenon termed ‘adaptive thermogenesis’ — making weight loss harder to achieve.
This ‘famine reaction’, a survival mechanism which helped humans to survive as a species when food supply was inconsistent in millennia past, is now contributing to our growing waistlines when the food supply is readily available.”
Shorter breaks from dieting are not as effective, said Professor Byrne:
“There is a growing body of research which has shown that diets which use one to seven day periods of complete or partial fasting alternated with ad libitum food intake, are not more effective for weight loss than conventional continuous dieting.
It seems that the ‘breaks’ from dieting we have used in this study may be critical to the success of this approach.
While further investigations are needed around this intermittent dieting approach, findings from this study provide preliminary support for the model as a superior alternative to continuous dieting for weight loss.”
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The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity (Byrne et al., 2018).