Do trendy intermittent fasting methods known as the 16:8 or 5:2 diet for weight loss really work? You feast for 8 hours and then fast for 16 hours. Or you choose to fast for two days a week and then eat with pleasure and without regrets for the remainder of the week.
A number of self-help books recommending this trend promise participants weight loss without any up and down effects as well as sustained metabolism changes and other health benefits.
“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 Ruth Schübel of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). “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.”
150 overweight and obese people participated for over a year in the HELENA study, which was conducted by a team from DKFZ in collaboration with scientists from the Heidelberg University Hospital.
The participants were put into three groups and chosen randomly. One group was put on a conventional diet with calorie restrictions of 20%. A second group was put on an intermittent 5:2 fasting diet plan that also restricted 20% calorie intake for the week. The third control group was not put on any diet plan but advised to eat a healthy balanced diet recommended by the DGE.
The results were surprising and for those following intermittent fasting, it is revealing. Health status results turned out to be the same for both dietary methods of the two groups. “In participants of both groups, body weight and, along with it, visceral fat, or unhealthy belly fat, were lost and extra fat in the liver reduced,” Schübel reported.
Special MRT imaging was used and executed by Johanna Nattenmüller at Heidelberg University Hospital to precisely determine the changes in body weight distribution in each study participant.
It was discovered that no matter what diet plan a person uses, if they should lose only 5% of body weight, that could result in their losing 20% of dangerous visceral fat and their liver could lose more than a third of any fat in it.
Also no changes in metabolic values or biomarkers and gene activities analyzed were found.
The conclusion made by Tilman Kühn, leading scientist of the study, is that whatever dietary plan you use, the key is to stick with it and follow through.
“Just do it!” is therefore the scientists credo. Using a reliable well-balanced dieting plan will result in weight loss benefits for your body and overall health.