The two most popular ways of losing weight work equally well, recent research finds.
A conventional calorie restricted diet and intermittent fasting both lead to similar weight loss, researchers have concluded.
The best diet simply depends on what suits the individual.
Intermittent fasting involves dieting for a period and then eating normally for another, usually shorter period.
Some popular variations include 16:8 and 5:2, which involve dieting for 15 or 5 days and then taking a break for 8 or 2 days, depending on the regime.
A conventional diet just restricts the diet continuously until the target weight is achieved.
Comparing the two diets, researchers found it made little difference to weight loss or general health: both were effective.
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 included 150 obese or overweight Germans.
One-third followed the standard calorie-controlled diet, one-third followed the 5:2 diet (taking two days off) and they were compared to a control group.
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.”
Dr Tilman Kühn, study co-author, said that the 5:2 diet does suit some better:
“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).