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Study: Researchers examined the effects of interval fasting
Intermittent fasting is the new diet trend. Scientists at Heidelberg University Hospital have looked closely at the advantages and disadvantages of interval fasting in the course of a study. The results are astonishing.
Different methods of losing weight
People who want to lose weight often try different methods. Some reduce fat on their diet, others believe that low-carb diets can help you lose weight faster. And a few also try it with rather unusual methods such as the paleo diet, where you eat like in the Stone Age.
But there are scientists who think that such diets bring almost nothing because you quickly gain weight again due to the yo-yo effects. A relatively new diet trend is widely praised: interval fasting. But is this method actually better than other diets? This question has now been answered in a new study.
Intermittent fasting is the trend
Eat eight hours and go hungry for the next 16 hours? Or would you rather fast for two whole days and enjoy the rest of the week without remorse?
Intermittent fasting - better known as a 16: 8 or 5: 2 diet - is all the rage. Numerous popular guidebooks on the subject promise weight loss without a yo-yo effect as well as a sustainable change in metabolism and thus an improvement in health.
The German Nutrition Society (DGE) warns that interval or intermittent fasting is not suitable for permanent weight regulation. There is also a lack of scientifically-based studies on the long-term consequences of this diet.
"In fact, there are only a few small studies on intermittent fasting, but they come up with astonishingly positive effects on metabolic health," explains Ruth Schübel from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in a message.
"That made us curious and we wanted to know whether these effects could also be demonstrated in a larger patient group and over a longer period of time."
Weight loss method scientifically examined
For this reason, Schübel, together with a team of DKFZ researchers and scientists from the Heidelberg University Hospital, used the HELENA study to examine 150 overweight and obese participants over a period of one year.
The subjects were randomly divided into three groups at the start of the study: a third ate a conventional reduction diet for 12 weeks, which reduced the daily calorie intake by 20 percent.
A second group subscribed to a 5: 2 program, which also saved them 20 percent of their calories over the course of the week.
The control group did not follow a specific diet plan, but, like all other study participants, was motivated to stick to a balanced diet as recommended by the DGE.
After the actual diet phase, the researchers documented the weight and health of the study participants for a total of 38 weeks.
The result, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, may be as surprising as it is sobering to fans of interval fasting.
Because, as the HELENA scientists found out, both diets improved the state of health equally.
"In the subjects of both groups, the body weight reduced the visceral fat, that is, the unhealthy belly fat, and the fat deposits in the liver," says Schübel.
The change in the fat distribution in the body of the study participants could be exactly determined with the help of a special MRI imaging performed by Johanna Nattenmüller in the Heidelberg University Hospital.
The good news is that even a small diet success is a big health benefit:
If you reduce your body weight by just five percent, you lose around 20 percent of dangerous belly fat and even over a third of liver fat - regardless of the diet.
The study authors also made no distinction between the two diets for all other metabolic values analyzed, as well as for all examined biomarkers and gene activities.
"Just do it!"
The HELENA study does not support the euphoric expectations of interval fasting, but it also shows that this method is no worse than a conventional diet.
"It also seems that it is easier for some people to be very disciplined over two days instead of counting calories and restricting themselves every day," said Tilman Kühn, lead scientist of the study.
"In order to maintain the new weight, however, a permanent change of diet to a balanced diet is required according to the recommendations of the DGE," explains the expert.
Kühn interprets the study results in such a way that it is not primarily the diet that is important, but rather the decision to choose a method and then to implement it.
"This is also indicated by a current study comparing low carb and low fat diets, i.e. reducing carbohydrates versus reducing fat while maintaining an otherwise balanced diet," says Kühn.
Here too, the study participants achieved comparable effects with both methods.
The credo of the team of scientists is therefore: "Just do it!" Because body and health definitely benefit from weight loss if this is done through a serious diet and on the basis of a balanced diet. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Intermittent fasting: No advantage over conventional diets (last opened: February 22, 2020), German Cancer Research Center
- Ruth Schübel, Johanna Nattenmüller, Disorn Sookthai, Tobias Nonnenmacher, Mirja E Graf, Lena Riedl, Christopher L Schlett, Oyunbileg von Stackelberg, Theron Johnson, Diana Nabers: Effects of intermittent and continuous calorie restriction on body weight and metabolism over 50 wk, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 108