Intermittent fasting (IF) can be a great addition to your weight loss toolkit. As with most diet plans, there are questions of safety and long-term effectiveness. Fasting for part of each day, or for certain days in the week, can help you stick to a restricted-calorie meal plan without feeling deprived of your favorite foods.
Scientific studies show that animals who eat restricted-calorie diets are healthier and better able to respond to metabolic stress. Professionals who believe in intermittent fasting claim that the regimen causes positive changes in the body. Studies on mice and rats show that the regimen leads to cell repair and metabolic changes such as lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Lower weight and fat percentages have also been observed with this diet.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe for Long Term Weight Loss?
Basics of the Diet
IF is customizable depending on your personal dietary needs. Some people choose to eat at restricted hours of the day while others skip entire days. Among those who skip eating on certain days of the week, there is a possibility of binge eating on the days when food is allowed. People need to watch out for this tendency when they are planning on intermittent fasting for weight loss.
Reviewing Medical Studies
While most of the medical studies on intermittent fasting for weight loss have been performed on mice, human studies are beginning to join the scientific literature.
In a small study of obese, prediabetic men, scientists measured a type of IF called time-restricted feeding. Part of the group ate from 7 AM to 3 PM while the others ate between 7 AM and 7 PM. Surprisingly, the group that was allowed to eat from 7 AM to 3 PM had lower insulin levels and blood pressure than the other group. While this study did not show effects on weight loss, cardiovascular and metabolic health are important parts of total body wellness.
The American Heart Association claims that “alternate-day fasting and periodic fasting may be effective for weight loss, although there are no data that indicate whether the weight loss can be sustained long-term.”
Another clinical study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that alternate-day fasting had a slightly higher effect on weight loss than an overall calorie-restricted diet. People were more likely to drop out of the study when they were on the fasting diet, but those who stuck with the program saw results. In the study, participants were given 75% of their daily energy needs five days a week with 25% of their energy needs twice a week. People tended to eat too much on the “feast” days and not enough on the “fast” days.
A Question of Safety
Eating an overall calorie-restricted diet is healthy as long as you pay close attention to the nutritional balance of the foods you eat. A balanced low-calorie diet will keep the body healthy. As long as dieters eat an overall balanced diet, long-term intermittent fasting appears to be safe. Watch out for the tendency to eat too much on feast days and not enough on fast days. When nutritional content is carefully monitored throughout the week, there is no reason why IF wouldn’t be considered safe for healthy people.
Diabetics and those with other chronic health conditions should consider other options before IF. When people with Type 2 diabetes participated in an IF diet, their body weight and A1C levels were lowered. However, the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) was increased.
Studies show that intermittent fasting diets can be safe and effective for people who are in good health. Rather than a complete fast, it is recommended that people consume about 25% of their daily energy needs on fast days and 75% on other days. Dieters are more likely to drop out of an IF diet, but the results can be significant for people who stick to the program. Also, people must watch out for the tendency to eat too much on feast days and not enough on fast days. Calorie restriction plus intermittent fasting can combine to bring about long-lasting weight loss effects.