Intermittent energy restriction and weight loss: a systematic review

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;70(3):292-9. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2015.195. Epub 2015 Nov 25.


Background/objectives: Intermittent energy restriction (IER) is an eating pattern of regular daily periods of restricted energy intake followed by periods of unrestricted energy intake. This is gaining prominence as an alternative weight-loss strategy to daily energy restriction (DER). The aim of this systematic review was to determine the effectiveness of IER on weight loss in overweight and obese adults and compare this with DER.

Subjects/methods: A systematic literature search was conducted using the CINAHL, Embase, Medline, PsycINFO, Cochrane and Scopus databases. Eight studies that assigned overweight or obese adults to IER or to a DER 'control' were deemed eligible for inclusion.

Results: All studies reported significant weight loss for IER groups. Average weight loss was approximately 0.2-0.8 kg per week. IER resulted in comparable weight loss to DER when overall energy restriction remained similar between diets. The majority of studies that reported body composition outcomes have shown equal efficacy for fat mass, fat-free mass and waist circumference.

Conclusions: Weight loss was achieved in overweight and obese adults following IER and this loss was comparable to a DER diet. IER may be an effective alternative strategy for health practitioners to promote weight loss for selected overweight and obese people.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Overweight / diet therapy*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waist Circumference
  • Weight Loss*