Intermittent fasting 'no magic bullet' for weight loss, researchers say

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While a preferred method of many dieters, intermittent fasting may not be the most effective way to lose weight. A study published in Science Translational Medicine is challenging the long-held belief that fasting provides better results than traditional calorie restriction diets based on a three-week-long experiment. 

The study, which was conducted by a team of physiologists at the University of Bath’s Centre for Nutrition, Exercise & Metabolism (CNEM), split 36 lean, healthy adults into three groups. Group 1 fasted on alternate days with their fast day followed by a day of eating 50% more than usual. Group 2 reduced calories across all meals every day by 25%. Group 3 fasted on alternate days like Group 1, but followed their fast day with one day eating 100% more than usual. 

Group 1 and Group 3 consumed no energy-providing nutrients during fasting periods and broke their fast at 3 p.m. on a daily basis. Over three weeks, Group 2 lost a little more than 4 pounds, with body scans showing a reduction in body fat. 

The researchers said that by contrast, Group 1 lost almost as much bodyweight but also saw a reduction in muscle mass, and Group 3’s weight loss was negligible. 

 The results, the team said, proved that “alternate-day fasting was no more or less effective” than calorie restriction in reducing body mass. 

“Many people believe that diets based on fasting are especially effective for weight loss or that these diets have particular metabolic health benefits even if you don’t lose weight,” James Betts, a professor and director of CNEM, said in a news release. “But intermittent fasting is no magic bullet and the findings of our experiment suggest that there is nothing special about fasting when compared with more traditional, standard diets people might follow.” 

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