The New Diet Trend That Helps You Lose Weight – But Worries Doctors

By on July 12, 2013
For years nutritionists have told us eating more frequent, small meals throughout the day were the key to a better metabolism–but now research from the Czech Republic says that isn’t the case.

Researchers, who presented their findings at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Session conference, explained that intermittent fasting, where people skip one meal and have two large meals, helped people lose more weight.

“Both experimental and human studies strongly support the positive effects of intermittent fasting,” says Dr. Hana Kahleova, lead author of the study.

While skipping breakfast hardly seems appealing, the research is clear: It’s more likely to result in a slimmer waistline.

What Researchers Discovered About Intermittent Fasting

To test the effects of intermittent fasting, researchers enrolled 54 patients in a 24 week study and instructed them to eat two separate diets: A lower calorie diet either following the intermittent fasting module or the frequent eating module. Participants were type 2 diabetics with otherwise normal health markers.

For the first 12 weeks of the study,participants either ate frequently or kept their meals quite short at two meals a day. After the 12 weeks had elapsed, researchers then had them switch to the other eating method to gauge how it affected their weight.

The result? Although both groups lost weight, those who followed intermittent fasting ended up losing more weight–something that researchers can’t explain.

But that’s not all, say researchers: Intermittent fasters also experienced lower blood sugar levels, which meant their ability to produce insulin had improved, not worsened.

This contradicts earlier evidence that eating infrequently could damage how the body produces insulin–or lose weight.

“This is interesting. But the first thing I think of is that it’s not really liveable, telling people to skip dinner every day,” says Melina Jampolis, a CNN diet and fitness expert. “Eating six times a day, it’s very hard to control calories.” Jampolis suggests that following intermittent fasting may make it easier for people to control how much they eat, and in turn, learn to moderate how many calories they consume.

While counting calories isn’t necessary to lose weight, that doesn’t mean calories don’t matter when it comes to weight loss.

Still, Jampolis–and countless other diet experts–are asking the obvious question: Is this something people can stick to? While its health ramifications are evident, most people, statistically, like to have their three meals a day; asking them to skip one meal to lose weight could be hard to adapt.

What You Can Learn From this Study

Frequent eating too unappealing for you? Then intermittent fasting may be your key to a lighter, healthier future–but make sure you’re prepared to do it. If you want to make it a part of your healthy lifestyle, here’s what to know:

  • Eating healthy still counts. While intermittent fasting can speed up weight loss, and even improve how your body produces insulin, it can’t improve other health markers, such as blood pressure and your risk for heart attack or stroke. Eating healthy still matters, so make it a priority.
  • Get into it gradually. Suddenly skipping dinner for a week is likely to cause cravings if you’re not used to it, so start it gradually. Experts recommend skipping dinner a few days a week to start.
  • Exercise is still important too. 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week is the usual recommendation, and it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you stay active. Paired with a healthy eating lifestyle, exercise can further decrease your risk of multiple diseases, such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Readers: Have you tried intermittent fasting before?

Fewer, Larger Meals Key to Weight Loss?

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