Intermittent fasting is one of the best ways to lose weight, research concludes.
Intermittent fasting can lead to the same amount of weight loss as regular calorie restriction, but also increase the shedding of belly fat.
Blood pressure is also reduced by intermittent fasting, along with leading to a lower blood lipid level and a lower resting heart rate.
Broadly, there are two types of intermittent fasting.
The first type involves restricting the time of day during which people can eat.
For example, breakfast is taken 90 minutes later than usual and supper 90 minutes earlier, with nothing outside this 6 to 8 hour window.
The other approach involves only eating one meal on two days of the week, then eating normally the rest of the week (sometimes known as the 5:2 diet).
The conclusions come from a review of multiple studies on intermittent fasting for weight loss.
Professor Mark Mattson, the study’s first author, said:
“We are at a transition point where we could soon consider adding information about intermittent fasting to medical school curricula alongside standard advice about healthy diets and exercise.”
The results from animal studies show that intermittent fasting supports cellular health, probably because of age-old problems of food scarcity that our ancestors experienced.
Fasting causes the body to switch over to turning fat into energy rather than burning sugar.
This switch increases stress resistance, blood sugar regulation and reduces inflammation.
Results from human studies have also shown benefits.
Along with improving insulin sensitivity, intermittent fasting also reduces belly fat and overall weight.
Intermittent fasting may also benefit brain health, according to recent studies.
One study has found it improves memory.
The difficulty with intermittent fasting is getting used to the practice in the first place, said Professor Mattson:
“Patients should be advised that feeling hungry and irritable is common initially and usually passes after two weeks to a month as the body and brain become accustomed to the new habit.”
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 New England Journal of Medicine (de Cabo & Mattson, 2019).