Research: Intermittent dieting success confirmed


Success of intermittent energy restrictions confirmed.  

Apple and Tape Measure

Apple and Tape Measure

Obesity is a well-established cause of premature mortality and a known health risk. In the United States, Obesity and related illnesses are the largest cost creators in health care.  In fact, there are very few illnesses that we cannot attribute some increase in cost created by being overweight or obese.  Patients, the government, and business alike are searching for anything that may reduce these costs.  For this reason, there is increasing interest in the use of intermittent energy restriction for weight loss and management and thus reducing disease risk and overall cost.  

So what is intermittent energy restriction?  Intermittent energy restriction is not a single entity.  There are various restrictions and reductions, but it is not a true fast.  The most plan I have seen consists of periods of a marked energy restriction.   Typically, the limits are either 60%–75% reduction below predicted energy requirements for two days each week or alternating days of 65-75% energy restriction below anticipated energy requirements.  The remainder of the days will be at regular food levels, but not a binge.    

Despite evidence suggesting intermittent calorie or energy restrictions might be beneficial for weight loss, many experts are not convinced, and in fact, many vilify it as just another fad diet that sets dieters up for failure.  In fact, I have found several articles indicating that it borders on an eating disorder.  The problem is that the consistency that they preach is not a proven method either and in fact, 99% of dieters will fail or lose or maintain their weight loss using standard techniques.  I have to admit that there are no long-term studies data to support intermittent dieting either.  

Intermittent diets appear to work.  A new study, released in February 2018, used food diaries to compare intermittent vs consistent calorie consumption.  The researchers found that intermittent energy restrictions might be a useful strategy to promote weight loss, without the concern for caloric compensation[1].  Further research is needed, but this is in line with prior studies in an article on intermittent energy intake I wrote in the past.  I am not necessarily saying that this is the best option for dieting, but my prior review and this results of this study confirm that it is a viable option.  Clearly, intermittent restrictions would be better than no restriction, and it may help prevent metabolic compensation over time.   



The bottom line:  This study suggests intermittent diets may be a useful strategy to promote weight loss. Further research is needed in longer-term intermittent dieting regimes, but the theory has a sound hypothesis behind it.  If your schedule does not support a long-term diet, it is worth a try but watch the days where you go off the restriction because they are not “days off” but rather a return to baseline.  


J. Harvey, A. Howell, J. Morris, and M. Harvie, “Intermittent energy restriction for weight loss: Spontaneous reduction of energy intake on unrestricted days,” Food Sci Nutr, vol. 2018, no. 00, pp. 1–8, Feb. 2018 [Online]. Available: 10.1002/fsn3.586/full” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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