Intermittent Fasting Can Work, But Not a Magic Bullet

Intermittent fasting, a weight loss strategy which involves greatly restricting food intake on certain days of the week, has gained a lot of attention recently. In a recent article on Food and Nutrition, dietitian Taylor Wolfram explored the science behind intermittent fasting and found that it probably isn’t the magic bullet everyone is looking for, but rather one of many strategies that can work for weight loss.

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Intermittent fasting is the most popular diet strategy currently, according to the 2018 Food and Health Survey.

Taylor mentions there are three kinds of intermittent fasting:

  • Alternate-day fasting alternates days of zero calories with days of unrestricted calories.
  • Modified fasting allows 20 percent to 25 percent of estimated caloric needs on fasting days and unrestricted intake on non-fasting days. For example, the 5:2 Diet is popular in the United Kingdom.
  • Time-restricting feeding requires a prolonged nighttime fast.

For short-term benefits, studies seem to show intermittent fasting is no more or less effective than traditional weight loss strategies in improving measures like body weight, blood pressure, lipids, etc. However, one potential benefit could be that restricting food on certain days of the week is easier for people to maintain than the traditional approach of eating a little less food every day for some people.

One important call out is that intermittent fasting is not recommended for those with diabetes or people at risk for disordered eating.

For food and beverage companies looking to appeal to intermittent fasters, there are a few possible strategies. One path is to offer foods with greatly reduced calorie content, so that those following intermittent fasting can still fit these foods into their days of restriction. Foods targeted toward this group should be especially high in nutrients like vitamins and minerals, as well as offering servings of fruits and vegetables. People who are following intermittent fasting diets have fewer eating occasions to get essential nutrients in their bodies over the course of a week, so this needs to be made up for when they do eat. Nutrients like fiber and protein can also help people following these eating patterns feel full longer, alleviating some of the discomfort of the fasting period.

Read the full article to read more perspectives from practicing dietitians on how intermittent fasting can impact mood and behavior during weight loss.