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I read an article about Audrey Hepburn recently and it stated that the reason she was so thin throughout her lifetime was due to extreme starvation as a child during World War II. Unfortunately, we still have areas in the world where residents are starving to death because there is nothing to eat. And in this country, we see people dying because they have TOO much to eat.

Most of us try very hard to find a balance between eating too much or too little food. We go on calorie restricting diets, sometimes with great success. But research indicates that most of those types of diets do not generate long term success.

One of the newer recommendations for improving health and facilitating weight loss is to practice intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting (IF) is a term used to describe an eating pattern that is not starvation, but does rotate between periods of fasting and eating.

While this may seem like a foreign concept, humans have actually been fasting throughout history. Sometimes it was done because food was not available. Other times it was (and still is) used to celebrate religious holidays. You are actually doing it for a period of time every day when you are sleeping.

Types of Intermittent Fasting

There are three primary types of intermittent fasting (IF) diets:

  • Time-restricted feeding: This method restricts your daily eating period to a set number of hours, for example from 10 am to 6 pm. Then you “fast” for 16 hours in between.
  • Whole day fasting: This method requires you to fast for 24 hours, once or twice a week, by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
  • The 5:2 Diet: On two non-consecutive days of the week, you can eat, but only 500-600 calories for the whole day. The other 5 days you eat normally.

Most people find the time-restricted method to be the simplest, most sustainable and easiest to stick to. It is also the most popular. The fasting period is flexible–it doesn’t have to be 16 hours. Not eating from the end of dinner until breakfast the next morning yields me a 14 hour fasting period every day.

All of these methods may help you lose weight as long as you don’t compensate by eating more on your eating days or feeding periods. But keep in mind that current research is showing that the success rate of an IF diet is about the same as traditional caloric restriction diets — which is to say “not good.” In a review of 12 independent studies comparing the effectiveness of intermittent fasting to continuous restricted eating, nine of the 12 studies concluded no significant differences between the groups.

If not intermittent fasting, then what?

There is still a lot of research needed on intermittent fasting to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of this type of diet. For now, the evidence does not support using this type of method for weight loss.

Dietary approaches such as mindfulness and/or intuitive eating are more effective long term and easier to implement on a daily basis.

Resources:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/intermittent-fasting

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260641102_Effects_of_intermittent_compared_to_continuous_energy_restriction_on_short-term_weight_loss_and_long-term_weight_loss_maintenance

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/osp4.52/full

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

 

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