Two of the most popular weight loss techniques are equally effective, new research finds.
Both intermittent fasting and conventional calorie restriction lead to the same levels of weight loss and health improvements, researchers have found.
Intermittent fasting — also known as the 16:8 diet or the 5:2 diet — is the newer, more fashionable approach.
The 5:2 diet, for example, involves fasting on two days and eating as usual on five days.
A conventional, ‘old-fashioned’ diet simply involves restricting calories the whole week.
The study compared them and found it makes little different to weight loss or health, so long as calorie intake is the same when averaged out.
The most effective diet, then, is the one that best suits the individual.
Dr Ruth Schübel, the study’s first author, said:
“There are in fact only a few smaller studies on intermittent fasting so far, but they have come up with strikingly positive effects for metabolic health.
This made us curious and we intended to find out whether these effects can also be proven in a larger patient group and over a prolonged period.”
The study involved 150 overweight and obese people in Germany.
One-third followed the 5:2 diet, one-third a calorie restricted diet and the remainder acted as a control group.
Both calorie-restricted diets involved eating 20% less.
Dr Schübel explained the results:
“In participants of both group, body weight and, along with it, visceral fat, or unhealthy belly fat, were lost and extra fat in the liver reduced.”
The 5:2 diet, though, did seem to suit some people better, said Dr Tilman Kühn, study co-author:
“In addition, for some people it seems to be easier to be very disciplined on two days instead of counting calories and limiting food every day.
But in order to keep the new body weight, people must also permanently switch to a balanced diet following DGE [The German Nutrition Society] recommendations.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Schübel et al., 2018).