Intermittent fasting was once hailed as a powerful strategy for weight loss, but the latest science shows it’s not exactly a miracle solution after all.
First: Intermittent fasting is the process of scheduling all of your eating for the day within a narrow time window, typically 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Other types of intermittent fasting include the “5:2” method, in which a person eats normally for five days a week and fasts on the other two. The idea is that by restricting eating to designated times, it will decrease one’s caloric intake, which will ultimately lead to weight loss.
It’s understandable why so many would believe intermittent fasting could be the key to weight loss. After all, a 2017 statement from the American Heart Association vouched for the practice, explaining, “intentional eating with mindful attention to the timing and frequency of eating occasions could lead to healthier lifestyle and cardiometabolic risk factor management.” Celebrities such as Hugh Jackman, Gisele Bündchen, and Terry Crews have sung the practice’s praises. But it turns out the science simply isn’t there to back that up.
A new year-long study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that when patients were divided into two groups (one with a calorie restriction and a time restriction, the other with just a calorie restriction) the results showed no benefit from eating within a narrow window. Those who adhered to intermittent fasting did not see any significant progress in waist circumference, BMI, body fat, blood pressure, or metabolic risk factors compared to the control group.
Worth mentioning: Both the control group and the variant group in this study did lose weight. And that’s because the key to success for weight loss is, and continues to be, caloric intake. It doesn’t matter when you’re eating, so much as what you’re eating. So breathe a sigh of relief, midnight snackers—go ahead and have that midnight nosh. Just consider making it carrots and hummus instead of chips and cookies.