The Trend of Intermittent Fasting
It seems every year there is a diet du jour: low carb, low fat, liquid only – you name it, and people have tried it to drop pounds quickly. Now, a new dieting trend called intermittent fasting has started to pick up steam.
Intermittent fasting involves going with no (or very low) calories for various periods of time. There are three main types of the diet currently being researched: alternate day fasting, which requires the dieter to eat one day, fast completely the next, then repeat; the five-two fasting approach, which involves normal calorie intake five days of the week and only 20-25% of a normal calorie allotment for two days (400-500 calories in a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet); and time restricted intermittent fasting, in which a dieter eats the day’s calories in a period of 8 hours and fasts the remaining 16.
According to OSF HealthCare Registered Dietician Ashley Simper, intermittent fasting has been proven to offer results, but is not necessarily superior to a basic calorie restricted diet.
“As an evidence based dietician, the research is actually all supporting really positive things," said Simper. "So they’re showing positive health outcomes. A lot of those they are finding in animals right now, not as many in human studies, but we’re seeing the weight loss, the decreased fat mass, the improved insulin sensitivity, decreased cholesterol. It all sounds great, but, when you compare it to what we recommend already, which is a calorie restricted diet, where you’re eating three meals and two snacks, there is no superiority with this intermittent fasting.”
A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found intermittent fasters may have a hard time adhering to their diets, and are more likely to drop out than someone on a daily calorie restriction. According to Simper, no matter how fast someone sees results, the best bet is a diet that can go the distance.
“Now what’s really important with weight loss is not what’s going to work short term. We see this working in weight loss for ten years. People can lose weight in a variety of ways, fasting could be one, and a calorie restriction, three meals a day could be another, but what’s going to work for them long term, " she said.
Before starting a fasting program, do your homework. Depriving the body of too many calories too quickly can cause a host of problems.
"It really changes our metabolism. It’s really detrimental to our health in terms of blood sugars, we’re missing vitamins and minerals that help our body function normally," said Simper. "We are definitely putting ourselves in a mode where it’s probably not sustainable, and then when we go off of that it’s even more detrimental to our health.”
And while Simper admits that weight loss isn’t a one-size-fits all affair, finding something that is healthy for your body and easy for you to maintain could be the key to a lifetime of healthy living.
"This cycling of people going on a diet is not really what we want to teach them. We want to teach them these things that they can do for life, which is the healthy balanced eating, including all the food groups, trying to get in several meals a day with snacks. I don't know about you, but I like to eat, so I’d like to eat a little bit more than just every other day,” she said.