Maybe you’ve heard of intermittent fasting (IF). In this weight-loss method, you alternate periods of eating what you want with periods of eating little to nothing. Intermittent fasting is rapidly growing in popularity. But is it really effective? Here’s what the research shows.
Feast-and-Fast Eating Plans
Intermittent fasting can take a variety of forms. These are three common variations:
- Alternate-day fasting. Every other day, you eat very lightly (about 500 calories). On the other days, you eat as you choose.
- The 5:2 diet. Five days per week, you eat what you want. The other two days, which should not be in a row, you eat very lightly.
- The 16:8 diet. For 16 hours each day, including your nightly sleep time, you have nothing but water. Then you eat as you wish for the other eight hours.
Weight Loss, Health Gains?
Research on intermittent fasting consists largely of animal studies and small human studies. Based on this evidence, it may lead to weight loss—typically, 3 to 8 percent of body weight after three weeks to six months.
But there’s no evidence that intermittent fasting works better than a traditional weight-loss diet, which cuts calories less drastically every day. And many people may find it harder to stick with intermittent fasting long-term.
Studies have looked at possible health benefits, too. A statement from the American Heart Association concluded that intermittent fasting may help:
- Reduce triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood)
- Lower blood pressure, but only if you lose at least 6 percent of your body weight
- Lessen insulin resistance (the body’s inability to use insulin properly)
Bottom line: The jury is still out on the usefulness of intermittent fasting. If you’re thinking about trying it, be sure to discuss it with your doctor first.
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