Intermittent fasting helps people to lose weight and promote overall health. But, according to scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Heidelberg University Hospital, it is not superior to other conventional calorie restriction diets.
In a report by Science Daily on November 26, the German scientists claimed that intermittent fasting is not suitable for long-term weight regulation and there is not enough scientific evidence yet for this diet method.
"There are in fact only a few smaller studies on intermittent fasting so far, but they have come up with strikingly positive effects for metabolic health," says DKFZ's Ruth Schübel. "This made us curious and we intended to find out whether these effects can also be proven in a larger patient group and over a prolonged period."
The scientists examined 150 overweight and obese study participants over one year as part of Helena study - the largest investigation on intermittent fasting.
One third followed conventional calorie restriction diet that reduced daily calorie intake by 20 percent. The second group kept to a 5:2 dietary plan and the controlled group, followed no specific diet plan but was advised to eat a well-balanced diet. Following the actual dieting phase, the researchers documented the participant's weight and health status for 38 weeks.
"In participants of both group, body weight and, along with it, visceral fat, or unhealthy belly fat, were lost and extra fat in the liver reduced," Schübel reported about the result, adding that they did not find any difference between the dieting methods.
"In addition, for some people, it seems to be easier to be very disciplined on two days instead of counting calories and limiting food every day," explained Tilman Kühn, leading scientist of the trial. "But in order to keep the new body weight, people must also permanently switch to a balanced diet following DGE recommendations," he added.
"The same evidence is also suggested in a current study comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, that is, reducing carbohydrates versus reducing fat intake while otherwise having a balanced diet," said Kühn.
In conclusion, the scientists advised that there is no primary dietary method that matters, what is more important is to decide on the method and follow through it.