Intermittent fast: fact or folly?

Intermittent fasting no more effective than eating a low-calorie diet: Research finds

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New research finds intermittent fasting is no more effective than eating a low-calorie diet any time of the day. Picture: Shuttterstock.

New research finds intermittent fasting is no more effective than eating a low-calorie diet any time of the day. Picture: Shuttterstock.

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New research casts doubt on benefits of intermittent fasting.

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Another week, another debunked wellness theory. This time it's time-restricted eating.

New research has cast doubt on the benefits of intermittent fasting.

The one when you inhale a doughnut at top speed because if nobody saw you then it didn't happen?

No. The huge diet trend. Jennifer Aniston's no-breakfast regime. Chris Hemsworth's daily 16-hour fast. No eating before noon for Chris Pratt from Guardians of the Galaxy. It's also called intermittent fasting.

I tried that. After eight hours I was so hangry that the whole office still refers to it as The Fast and the Furious.

Looks like you needn't have bothered. New research has cast doubt on the benefits of intermittent fasting.

And those are?

Intermittent fasters condense their food intake into a six to 10 hour window every day. This cycle of feeding and fasting is supposed to reflect the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, chasing food in the earlier part of the day then eating it later.

Intermittent fasters often extend their natural overnight fast by skipping breakfast. The popular pattern is 16:8 - fast for sixteen hours, feed for eight.

Apart from a catastrophic emotional meltdown by 11am, what does this achieve?

Proponents believe that when you fast for substantial periods, your body starts to burn your stored fat instead of fuelling itself with glucose from whatever you just ate.

This apparently boosts your metabolic health, supports weight loss and protects against type 2 diabetes by reducing your risk of insulin resistance - the thing that can happen when your body becomes too accustomed to running on glucose.

But it's all too good to be true, right?

Maybe. The new study, from researchers at China's Southern Medical University, compared intermittent fasters with people who followed the same low-calorie diet but ate all day long.

After a year, both groups had lost just over six kilos, and there was no significant distinction between them in terms of other health outcomes. Conclusion: consuming less has the same effect, whenever in the day you do it.

Bombshell! Is this the final curtain for fasting?

I very much doubt it. Previous studies have strongly indicated there are benefits to intermittent fasting, and its notable supporters, including celeb doctor and Fast 800 founder Dr Michael Mosley, are unconvinced by the new data. Watch this space and expect fierce debate.

Ooh. Like you say: the fast and the furious.

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