Discussing Questions Raised by a Recent Study on Intermittent Fasting
There has been quite a bit of debate in the medical and diet community about a recent study entitled Calorie Restriction with or without Time-Restricted Eating in Weight Loss which showed, in essence, that intermittent fasting was no more successful in providing weight loss than caloric restriction.
First, let’s talk about how this study was misinterpreted. Many media outlets interpreted this study as saying intermittent fasting was ineffective. However, other studies have shown this not to be the case. Some thoughts:
- The study did not discuss the potential cognitive gains that may be enjoyed with intermittent fasting.
- The study did not measure cardiovascular health and metabolic markers
- The study showed that intermittent fasting was not associated with adverse events.
- Also, intermittent fasting participants lost more weight than those assigned to calorie restriction alone, but not enough to be considered statistically significant.
- The study also did not measure the participants’ activity levels.
- The interpretation of the study also failed to account for the role of intermittent fasting in creating discipline and structure in the diet. This often makes interval fasting more sustainable than caloric restriction alone.
- There are different forms of intermittent fasting, and all were not explored and tested.
A Bit More About Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a concept that is derived from thousands of years of religious- and cultural-based rituals. Today, plenty of data show that fasting may have significant health benefits. There are different time intervals for fasting, each of which has its pros and cons but similar health benefits. Of course, fasting cannot be considered the primary or only treatment for obesity or other diseases. Instead, patients should look at intermittent fasting as part of a more significant lifestyle change that includes improving diet through caloric restriction and exercise. Dr. Robine is a fan of the Pesco-Mediterranean diet that prioritizes lean and exceptionally healthy protein like fish and healthy fats, like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds, while deemphasizing saturated fats and simple carbs, like red meats, added sugars, and processed foods.
Ultimately, we can’t look at this study and dismiss intermittent fasting because it doesn’t offer incredible weight loss gains over calorie restriction alone. As such, we continue to suggest intermittent fasting to patients who can benefit from it for their heart and overall health. Intermittent fasting should not be started without the supervision of your primary care physician or cardiologist, as any diet can be problematic if not pursued appropriately. So, if you have any questions, we encourage you to contact our office to learn more about what you can do to improve your heart and overall general health.
- Liu D, Huang Y, Huang C, Yang S, Wei X, Zhang P, Guo D, Lin J, Xu B, Li C, He H, He J, Liu S, Shi L, Xue Y, Zhang H. Calorie Restriction with or without Time-Restricted Eating in Weight Loss. N Engl J Med. 2022 Apr 21;386(16):1495-1504. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2114833. PMID: 35443107.