Intermittent fasting as a nutrition approach against obesity and metabolic disease

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2020 Nov;23(6):387-394. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000694.


Purpose of review: Intermittent fasting has been proposed as a potential nutrition approach against obesity and metabolic disease. Although data from studies in rodents convincingly support the antiobesity and cardiometabolic benefits of intermittent fasting, its effects in human health are still debatable.

Recent findings: Recent studies have examined the effect of two intermittent fasting approaches, that is, alternate day fasting (ADF) and time-restricted eating (TRE), on weight loss and cardiometabolic risk factors. ADF seems to be an equally effective weight loss approach to caloric restriction, but adherence to ADF is more challenging. ADF improves cardiometabolic risk factors, whereas it may have superior metabolic benefits compared to caloric restriction in people with insulin resistance. TRE with ad libitum food intake is well tolerated and induces 2-4% weight loss in approximatively 3 months. Additionally, TRE may have metabolic benefits particularly in people with metabolically abnormal obesity even without weight loss.

Summary: Intermittent fasting is a promising nutritional approach against obesity and its related metabolic diseases. Further research is needed to: i) establish the long-term effectiveness of TRE in weight loss and metabolic health, ii) improve the long-term adherence to ADF and investigate its weight loss independent effects in metabolic health, and iii) determine the mechanisms underlying the potential cardiometabolic benefits of intermittent fasting in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Caloric Restriction / methods*
  • Fasting / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Metabolic Diseases / physiopathology
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Weight Loss