Over the last few years, intermittent fasting has become one of the most popular weight-loss trends across the globe. There are many people, including some celebrities such as Malaika Arora and Alia Bhatt, who swear by intermittent fasting to maintain their weight. There have even been many best-selling diet books that glorify the effectiveness of this diet. But is it really beneficial?
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is not a diet but a pattern of eating. For IF, the person is not told to eat or skip any particular food but is rather asked to eat in cycles. Usually, intermittent fasting either involves daily fasting for 16 hours or fasting for 24 hours twice a week.
Though weight loss is slower with intermittent fasting, the diet pattern is easy to adopt. People often tend to eat 300 to 500 calories less every day when limiting their meals to an eight-hour window.
Does intermittent fasting help you lose weight?
In order to find out the effectiveness of intermittent fasting, scientists from the University of California along with other fellow researchers conducted a 12-week clinical study on 116 participants (both men and women) in the age group of 18 to 64 years with a body mass index (BMI) between 27 and 43.
Body mass index is a way to measure if a person is overweight or obese. An adult with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy, between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight and 30 or over is considered obese.
The participants were divided into two groups, one with the consistent meal timing (CMT) and the other one with time-restricted eating (TRE). The CMT group were asked to eat 3 meals per day, whereas the TRE group was allowed to eat as much as they wanted from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm but was to completely refrain from consuming any calories from 8:00 pm till 12:00 pm the next day.
Out of those 116 participants, 50 participants from the TRE and CMT group who needed to visit the lab four times during the study, in order to get their fat, muscle mass, blood sugar levels and energy expenditure measured. The rest of the participants were given digital scales and were asked to track their weight for 12 weeks.
The results of the study showed that over the course of three months, the average weight loss in the fasting group was 2 pounds (0.9 kgs) whereas it was 1.5 pounds in the consistent meal group. Moreover, the fasting group that went to the labs for their examination lost more weight than the others but 65% of that lost weight was not from body fat but lean mass, commonly known as muscle. Loss of lean mass can reduce your strength, endurance and performance.
Conclusion of the debate
The scientists conclude that intermittent fasting may not be beneficial for overweight adults and that it may only show significant results when practised along with other interventions.
Additionally, previous studies have shown that obese people may lose more weight and can simultaneously improve their cardiovascular health by consuming a heavy breakfast, a moderate lunch and a light dinner, rather than fasting.
For more information, read our article on How to lose weight fast and safely.
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