Intermittent v. continuous energy restriction: differential effects on postprandial glucose and lipid metabolism following matched weight loss in overweight/obese participants

Br J Nutr. 2018 Mar;119(5):507-516. doi: 10.1017/S0007114517003890.


The intermittent energy restriction (IER) approach to weight loss involves short periods of substantial (>70 %) energy restriction (ER) interspersed with normal eating. Studies to date comparing IER to continuous energy restriction (CER) have predominantly measured fasting indices of cardiometabolic risk. This study aimed to compare the effects of IER and CER on postprandial glucose and lipid metabolism following matched weight loss. In all, twenty-seven (thirteen male) overweight/obese participants (46 (sem 3) years, 30·1 (sem 1·0) kg/m2) who were randomised to either an IER intervention (2638 kJ for 2 d/week with an overall ER of 22 (sem 0·3) %, n 15) or a CER intervention (2510 kJ below requirements with overall ER of 23 (sem 0·8) %) completed the study. Postprandial responses to a test meal (over 360 min) and changes in anthropometry (fat mass, fat-free mass, circumferences) were assessed at baseline and upon attainment of 5 % weight loss, following a 7-d period of weight stabilisation. The study found no statistically significant difference in the time to attain a 5 % weight loss between groups (median 59 d (interquartile range (IQR) 41-80) and 73 d (IQR 48-128), respectively, P=0·246), or in body composition (P≥0·437). For postprandial measures, neither diet significantly altered glycaemia (P=0·266), whereas insulinaemia was reduced comparatively (P=0·903). The reduction in C-peptide tended (P=0·057) to be greater following IER (309 128 (sem23 268) to 247781 (sem20 709) pmol×360 min/l) v. CER (297 204 (sem25 112) to 301 655 (sem32 714) pmol×360 min/l). The relative reduction in TAG responses was greater (P=0·045) following IER (106 (sem30) to 68 (sem 15) mmol×360 min/l) compared with CER (117 (sem 43) to 130 (sem 31) mmol×360 min/l). In conclusion, these preliminary findings highlight underlying differences between IER and CER, including a superiority of IER in reducing postprandial lipaemia, which now warrant targeted mechanistic evaluation within larger study cohorts.

Keywords: 3-OHB 3-hydroxybutyrate; CER continuous energy restriction; ER energy restriction; IER intermittent energy restriction; REE resting energy expenditure; Glucose; Humans; Intermittent fasting; Lipids; TAG.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Body Composition
  • Body Weight
  • C-Peptide / metabolism
  • Caloric Restriction / methods*
  • Diet, Reducing / methods
  • Energy Intake
  • Fasting*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperinsulinism / diet therapy
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Overweight
  • Postprandial Period*
  • Weight Loss / physiology*


  • Blood Glucose
  • C-Peptide

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN13687043