Although you may dislike the everyday restrictions of a conventional diet, a new study suggests that fasting one day and eating anything you want the next may not be better for weight loss.
At the end of one year, researchers discovered that weight loss on either type of diet was about the same. There was a 6 percent weight loss on the alternate-day fasting diet and a little over 5 percent for the ones on a daily restricted diet.
“We thought the alternate-day fasting group would do better. It allows people to have a break from dieting every other day, so we thought their adherence would be better,” explained lead author Krista Varady.
“But it turns out people in both diets lost the same amount of weight,” said Varady. She’s an associate professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“People in the alternate-day fasting group were eating more than the 500 calories prescribed on the fast day, but a lot less than the calories prescribed on the feast day. That’s why they lost the same amount of weight,” she explained.
However, “people who stuck to the [alternate-day fasting] diet lost 20 to 50 pounds in a year,” Varady added. “It does work for some people.”
In the study, 100 obese people were randomly assigned to an alternate-day fasting diet, a conventional diet, or no diet at all.
People assigned to the conventional diet managed to stick to their diet goals better than the alternate-day fasting group, says researchers.
The dropout rates said it all: nearly 40 percent of the alternate-day fasting group gave up, while only 30 percent of the conventional diet group and 26 percent of control group quit.
Sticking to just 500 calories a day is very difficult but reducing your calories by 25 percent is much easier so a conventional diet would be a better choice for many.
The fasting diet appeared to be safe, she added. On fast days, people were encouraged to eat a lot of protein, because protein makes you feel full, she said. Whole grains are also a good choice because they can suppress your appetite as well.
In terms of weight loss, all calories are the same, but not all calories are healthy ones, Varady said. On days people could eat anything, some ate bags of chips and still lost weight, she noted. Snacks are not a good choice if you are trying to receive better health benefits even if you still lose weight.
“If you are reducing your food intake, you are going to lose weight, but in terms of health benefits, people should try to eat less processed foods and more fruits and vegetables,” Varady said.
Source: Krista Varady, Ph.D., associate professor, kinesiology and nutrition, University of Illinois, Chicago; Samantha Heller, M.S., R.D., senior clinical nutritionist, New York University Medical Center, New York City; May 1, 2017, JAMA Internal Medicine, online
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