Effects of intermittent fasting on glucose and lipid metabolism

Proc Nutr Soc. 2017 Aug;76(3):361-368. doi: 10.1017/S0029665116002986. Epub 2017 Jan 16.


Two intermittent fasting variants, intermittent energy restriction (IER) and time-restricted feeding (TRF), have received considerable interest as strategies for weight-management and/or improving metabolic health. With these strategies, the pattern of energy restriction and/or timing of food intake are altered so that individuals undergo frequently repeated periods of fasting. This review provides a commentary on the rodent and human literature, specifically focusing on the effects of IER and TRF on glucose and lipid metabolism. For IER, there is a growing evidence demonstrating its benefits on glucose and lipid homeostasis in the short-to-medium term; however, more long-term safety studies are required. Whilst the metabolic benefits of TRF appear quite profound in rodents, findings from the few human studies have been mixed. There is some suggestion that the metabolic changes elicited by these approaches can occur in the absence of energy restriction, and in the context of IER, may be distinct from those observed following similar weight-loss achieved via modest continuous energy restriction. Mechanistically, the frequently repeated prolonged fasting intervals may favour preferential reduction of ectopic fat, beneficially modulate aspects of adipose tissue physiology/morphology, and may also impinge on circadian clock regulation. However, mechanistic evidence is largely limited to findings from rodent studies, thus necessitating focused human studies, which also incorporate more dynamic assessments of glucose and lipid metabolism. Ultimately, much remains to be learned about intermittent fasting (in its various forms); however, the findings to date serve to highlight promising avenues for future research.

Keywords: CER continuous energy restriction; FAO fatty-acid oxidation; FFA free-fatty acid; HOMA-IR homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance; IER intermittent energy restriction; T2DM type 2 dibetes mellitus; TRF time-restricted feeding; Glucose; Intermittent fasting; Lipids; Weight-loss.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research / methods
  • Biomedical Research / trends
  • Caloric Restriction / adverse effects
  • Congresses as Topic
  • Diet, Reducing* / adverse effects
  • Dietetics / methods
  • Dietetics / trends
  • Fasting / adverse effects
  • Fasting / metabolism*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Nutritional Sciences / methods
  • Nutritional Sciences / trends
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Societies, Scientific
  • Species Specificity
  • Time Factors
  • Weight Loss


  • Glucose