Do Intermittent Diets Provide Physiological Benefits Over Continuous Diets for Weight Loss? A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2015 Dec 15;418 Pt 2:153-72. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2015.09.014. Epub 2015 Sep 16.

Abstract

Energy restriction induces physiological effects that hinder further weight loss. Thus, deliberate periods of energy balance during weight loss interventions may attenuate these adaptive responses to energy restriction and thereby increase the efficiency of weight loss (i.e. the amount of weight or fat lost per unit of energy deficit). To address this possibility, we systematically searched MEDLINE, PreMEDLINE, PubMed and Cinahl and reviewed adaptive responses to energy restriction in 40 publications involving humans of any age or body mass index that had undergone a diet involving intermittent energy restriction, 12 with direct comparison to continuous energy restriction. Included publications needed to measure one or more of body weight, body mass index, or body composition before and at the end of energy restriction. 31 of the 40 publications involved 'intermittent fasting' of 1-7-day periods of severe energy restriction. While intermittent fasting appears to produce similar effects to continuous energy restriction to reduce body weight, fat mass, fat-free mass and improve glucose homeostasis, and may reduce appetite, it does not appear to attenuate other adaptive responses to energy restriction or improve weight loss efficiency, albeit most of the reviewed publications were not powered to assess these outcomes. Intermittent fasting thus represents a valid--albeit apparently not superior--option to continuous energy restriction for weight loss.

Keywords: Alternate day fasting; Appetite; Body composition; Energy expenditure; Glucose homeostasis; Intermittent energy restriction.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Diet, Reducing / methods*
  • Energy Intake
  • Fasting / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome