Is intermittent fasting better than counting calories? Maybe not, but you might stick with it

As weight loss plans go, it’s easy to understand the appeal of intermittent fasting: eat whatever you want, but only during certain blocks of time, often just eight hours a day.

Instead of counting calories or measuring portions, dieters simply need to pay attention to the clock, said Courtney Peterson, a nutrition researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“You have this very simple rule: To eat or not to eat,” Peterson said.

The technique has gained popularity in recent years, becoming a topic on social networks.

But does time-restricted eating, a form of intermittent fasting, really help people lose weight and improve their health?

Here’s what you need to know about the practice:


Intermittent fasting is an eating strategy in which people alternate between fasting and eating on a regular schedule, defined as at least 14 hours without food, Peterson said. This may involve variations such as eating every other day, eating five days a week, then fasting for two days, or limiting daily eating to certain times.

Time-restricted eating, where people condense all their meals into a daily window of 10 hours or less, is the most popular form of intermittent fasting. Diners will delay breakfast until 10 a.m. or noon, then eat dinner around 6 or 8 p.m., forgoing food the rest of the time.


The theory behind time-restricted eating is that it supports the circadian rhythm, or the body’s internal clock. Spending more time fasting can, for example, boost the body’s processes that govern blood sugar and fat metabolism, scientists say.

The first studies carried out on mice from 2012 seemed to show the health benefits of time-restricted feeding. Small studies of obese people suggest that the practice may help them lose weight and improve other health markers.


Research has shown that people on time-restricted diets tend to eat fewer calories, which could explain weight loss.

Combined study results suggest that obese adults who limited their meal times without focusing on calories naturally reduced their energy intake by 200 to 550 calories per day, lose 3-5% of their base body weight.

But a larger study of people observed over a longer period of time showed that time restrictions alone may not matter.

A 2022 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed 139 obese people for a year. Participants either followed a low-calorie diet for a certain window of time or ate the same number of calories throughout the day. Both groups lost weight – 14 to 18 pounds on average – but there was no significant difference between the strategies.

“Our current data suggest that eating for a limited period is neither better nor worse than cutting calories,” Peterson said. This technique also doesn’t help burn more calories, she added.

Still, Peterson said, the simplicity of the time restriction might be easier to maintain than a typical diet.

“Almost no one likes counting calories,” she said.


Early clinical trials involving eating periods of six to 10 hours found that eating for a limited period was “generally safe,” researchers reported in the study. Obesity magazine.

But headline-grabbing research presented this year at a scientific session of the American Heart Association, suggested that people on a time-restricted diet for 8 hours were at much higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those who ate for 12 to 16 hours.

This research has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, noted Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez of the Mayo Clinic.

But he added there was reason to be careful. Long-standing evidence suggests that skipping breakfast may be linked to cardiovascular diseases And the dead. People should consult their health care providers before trying to restrict their diet, especially if the fasting window lasts until midday.

“It’s a call to pause before recommending a particular diet,” Lopez-Jimenez said.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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