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Not So Fast?! The Potential Downsides of Intermittent Fasting

The latest diet trend, intermittent fasting, continues to grow in popularity. But despite all the fanfare, little research has been done to understand the diet’s effectiveness—until now. A recent three-month study from the University of California – San Francisco, calls into question the effectiveness of this trendy diet.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

There are varying ways to fast intermittently (also called time-restricted eating). Whatever fasting schedule people adhere to, the idea is to limit one’s eating window in an attempt to reduce caloric intake. Fasting schedules could involve simply alternating days to fast or eating normally for five days and fasting for two.

Studying The Effects of Eating Between Noon and 8:00 P.M.

One particular intermittent fasting schedule involves skipping breakfast and only eating during an eight-hour window (12:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.). The study focused on this particular schedule to measure the effects of a 16-hour fast.

The study looked at 116 overweight and obese adults and split them into a control group (eating three meals a day) while the other group ate all their meals during the restricted noon-8:00 p.m. window for 12 weeks. The study monitored their weight, muscle mass, blood sugar levels, and energy expenditure.

So, Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

On average, the fasting group lost two pounds (a half-pound more than the control group). And the study attributes most of that weight loss to reductions in muscle mass.

The result is not a statistically significant amount of weight loss to conclude time-restricted eating works.

Critics cite the length of the study being too short as well as doing resistance training during intermittent fasting to help maintain muscle.

Due to the dearth of research and studies, intermittent fasting will continue to be studied and it could change these initial findings. But for now, reconsider time-restricted eating if you’re looking to lose weight.

Source: New York Times

Dr. Sonja Stilp is a physician and founder of RISE practicing in Boulder, CO. She provides personalized care and global healing for the athlete in all of us. Make an appointment with her to talk about your diet and its effects on your performance. Sonja enjoys walking, hiking, running, and eating throughout the day. Fasting doesn’t work well for her.  She prefers frequent small meals throughout the day.

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