Intermittent fasting can help consumers lose weight and stay healthy, study finds

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Researchers say the length of the fasting period may not be that important

Recent studies have cited the countless benefits associated with intermittent fasting, including reducing the risk of both diabetes and liver disease. Despite these positive results, many consumers worry about potential health risks associated with this time-oriented diet. 

Now, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have found that practicing intermittent fasting can help lead to weight loss, and they say consumers shouldn’t fear poor health outcomes. In this study, the researchers multiple methods of intermittent fasting were successful in terms of weight loss, and participants’ physical health remained strong. 

“This is the first human clinical trial to compare the effects of two popular forms of time-restricted feeding on body weight and cardiometabolic risk factors,” said researcher Krista Varady. 

Seeing positive results

The researchers tested two different models of intermittent fasting for the study to determine if one was better than the other in terms of weight loss progress. Participants were assigned to either a six-hour or four-hour restricted eating window. 

In both groups, participants couldn’t eat until 1pm, and then were only allowed to eat in either their four- or six-hour window. The experiment lasted for two and a half months, at which point the researchers assessed their cholesterol, insulin resistance, blood pressure, and oxidative stress. The researchers compared the results from these groups to a control group, whose members had no diet intervention but were directed to maintain their current weight and exercise regimen. 

Intermittent fasting, regardless of the fasting period, yielded several positive health benefits. Participants in both of the fasting groups saw improved oxidative stress and insulin resistance figures, while the control group stayed the same in these areas. 

It ultimately didn’t matter how long the fasting period was -- the fasting itself was successful in reducing participants’ body weight by three percent over the course of the study. 

Losing weight and staying healthy

These findings are encouraging because they show that intermittent fasting can be a healthy way for consumers to achieve weight loss and improve their overall physical health. 

“The findings of this study are promising and reinforce what we’ve seen in other studies -- fasting diets are a viable option for people who want to lose weight, especially for people who do not want to count calories or find other diets to be fatiguing,” said Varady. 

“It’s also telling that there was no added weight loss benefit for people who sustained a longer fast -- until we have further studies that directly compare the two diets or seek to study the optimal time for fasting, these results suggest that the six-hour fast might make sense for most people who want to pursue a daily fasting diet.” 

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