Is intermittent fasting for weight loss a myth?

Intermittent fasting is being touted as a good way to lose weight.

Photo credit: Fotosearch

Intermittent fasting may be such an old idea, but, its craze lately makes it look like the new kid on the block for weight loss.

It is being touted by people who have tried and tested it as a good way to lose weight, and those who wish to take that route are gradually embracing it.

Ignatius Kusimba is one of them. About four months ago, he weighed 79kg. He decided to try intermittent fasting. “I used to have strictly one meal a day, and eliminated wheat and sugar in my diet,” he says.

Apart from the fasting, he says that morning runs were also part of his routine.

In four months, now weighing 68kg, he lost a whopping 11kg. “It works. I have lost weight and I’m happy," he tells HealthyNation.

Like so many people, he believes that the easiest and surest ways of losing weight is by skipping meals. He is not alone. On Instagram, for example, there are a number of pages dedicated to spreading the gospel of intermittent fasting.

Minimal effect

Wreiner Mandu has also been part of the intermittent fasting ‘club’. Like Ignatius, Wreiner switched his diet routine to just one meal a day.

“I take my meals at around 2pm or 3pm,” he tells HealthyNation. “I ensure that my meal has lots of protein and some carbohydrates. When I can, I add some vitamins to it.”

He previously weighed 99kg, and so far he has lost only 5kg.

Even with noticeable results being seen in the people HealthyNation talked to, a new research disregards the effectiveness of intermittent fasting as a weight loss mechanism, saying if it happens, the impact is minimal.

In a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers, who focused on 116 obese and overweight people, say there is a very minimal chance of losing weight as a result of time restricted eating. While other studies on intermittent fasting mentioned that it can lead to great weight loss, the new study is the first to explore its shortcoming.

“Time-restricted eating did not change any relevant metabolic markers,” the research said.

On the contrary, time-restricted eating, in the absence of other interventions, is not more effective in weight loss than eating throughout the day, adds the study.

Lean mass

The study used interventions to come up with the results. The interventions used in the study were time specific, where participants in the time restricted category were gauged on when and how much time they used to eat.

“Many studies have shown that adequate or excessive protein consumption during weight loss can mitigate losses in lean mass,” said the researchers. Lean mass excludes fat in the body, and includes organs, skin, bones, body water and muscle mass.

The researchers found that those who were controlled to have time-restricted eating had a change in lean mass and not the loss of body water. Their inference therefore is that "it is unlikely that differences in muscle hydration would account for all of the lean mass loss".

The researchers suggest that successive studies in regard to intermittent fasting should focus on the difference a body gets when a person consumes food early or late as well as protein intake as a means of losing weight.