Health & Fitness
In a 24/7 food culture, fasting gains followers
some than for others, says Dr. Fatima Stanford, a Harvard Medical School obesity specialist. “There’s no one size fits all,” she said.
Obesity experts have become interested in intermittent fasting, but studies on the diet are still emerging. For now, limited research suggests it may not be any better for weight loss than conventional calorie-cutting over the long term.
“Unfortunately, intermittent fasting gets a little hyped,” said Courtney Peterson, who studies the diet at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Still, some fasting approaches may be more effective than others. And Peterson notes the difficulty of designing studies that definitively capture a diet’s effects. That’s in part because so many other variables could be at play.
For instance, researchers are looking at whether any benefits of intermittent fasting might be tied to when the eating period falls and fluctuations in how well our bodies process food throughout the day.
Some health experts say intermittent fasting might be too difficult for many people. They point to a study of 100 people where those placed in the alternate-day fasting group lost around the same amount of weight as those on conventional calorie-restriction diets over time. But the fasting group had a dropout rate of 38%, compared with 29% for the conventional diet group.
But intermittent fasting may be easier than other diets for people who already skip meals when they’re too busy, said UIC’s Varady.
To make weight loss stick, she said people should pick diets that resemble how they already eat.
Melissa Breaux Bankston, a Crossfit instructor in New Orleans, tried intermittent fasting as a way to curb her snacking. “I wanted to limit the amount of time that I was eating,” she said.