Intermittent fasting works for weight loss – but only if you follow this rule: ScienceAlert

Intermittent fasting works for weight loss – but only if you follow this rule: ScienceAlert

Intermittent fasting is an increasingly popular way to try to lose weight by skipping meals. A new review has concluded that diet restriction may not be enough to get rid of some body fat, at least not on its own.

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark and Wageningen University in the Netherlands have summarized our existing knowledge about the practice of fasting.

A lot of data has been collected over the years, covering multiple aspects of the way intermittent fasting affects the body. One of the key takeaways is that intermittent fasting must be combined with management of calorie intake in order to notice any weight loss. It’s the reduction in total calories that makes the difference, not the long breaks between meals.

“When you do intermittent fasting, the rule of thumb still applies, which is that we should consume fewer calories than we burn if we want to lose weight,” says molecular biologist Philip Robert of the University of Southern Denmark.

“This means that intermittent fasting does not give you a free pass to eat unlimited amounts of food. It’s basic physiology, and fasting can’t change that.”

There are many topics covered in the review, which looks at the effects of intermittent fasting at the molecular level. These include the release of fatty acids stored in the body to provide energy, and ketogenesis (when high rates of fatty acid breakdown lead to the production of ketones in the liver).

The paper also addresses the feelings of euphoria that some people experience after several days of fasting, as feelings of joy begin to replace feelings of hunger, perhaps in response to the changing chemical processes taking place in the body and brain.

This is something Robert experienced himself while fasting. Right now, scientists aren’t sure why this happens, but one possibility is that ketones provide energy more efficiently to the brain, so it pulses in a happier state.

“The brain is fed with ketones during fasting,” says Robert. “Maybe that’s why you might feel so clear.”

There are different approaches to intermittent fasting, with some people not eating during certain hours of the day, and others not eating during certain days of the week. Many well-known public figures have subscribed to these diets as well.

The research team points to many health benefits of fasting other than weight loss, including lower blood pressure. But what is clear is that everyone responds differently to fasting, and it is important to consult a doctor if you are considering reducing your food intake.

“There are actually many health benefits to intermittent fasting, but fasting by itself does not lead to significant weight loss,” says Robert.

The research was published in Trends in endocrinology and metabolism.

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