Intermittent Fasting May Not Be Safe, Helpful

Only last week, we examined the evidence available about the intermittent fasting diet. We said you should speak to your doctor about whether or not it was right for you from what was known about it. It’s not a crash diet with hard-to-follow rules, highly restrictive limits or obvious drawbacks. It hasn’t been widely criticized. The diet doesn’t stop you from eating any food groups, it doesn’t limit your nutrients and it’s easy to stick to.

All in all, doctors seem to agree that, unless you had medical restrictions, it was safe to try and appeared to be effective. But, new research released just this week might pump the breaks on all that and have doctors going back to the drawing board. Scientists say you lose muscle, not fat while on the intermittent fasting diet.

Scientists from the Univ. of California San Francisco were led by Dr. Ethan Weiss, a cardiologist in the study. He has personally done the intermittent fasting diet himself. We always like it when the research comes from someone who has followed the diet; it shows it’s not just a person who likes “debunking” things but is instead genuinely interested. He lost some weight. His patients asked him if it was right for them. He didn’t want to approve it based solely on his own experience.

I went into this hoping to demonstrate that this thing I’ve been doing for years works,” said Dr. Weiss. “But as soon as I saw the data, I stopped.”

Unlike pretty much all the studies on the diet in the past, this one used human beings. All the other studies either used animals or had very small groups of participants. The study used 116 people, split into two groups. One group had three regular meals a day with snacks when they liked; the others only ate for eight hours a day. While the fasting people did lose weight, it wasn’t a significant enough amount to be considered related to the diet: it was half a pound.

And, the weight they were losing appeared muscle, not fat. That sets a person up to regain weight when they stop following the diet. The people who were fasting lost approximately 65 percent of their weight through muscle mass. Usually, through a calories-restricted diet, a person would expect to lose 20-30 percent of the weight through muscle loss. These results are not good.

The study’s final verdict was, “Time-restricted eating, in the absence of other interventions, is not more effective in weight loss than eating throughout the day.” Dr. Weiss said he wouldn’t be recommending it to his patients.  

This is disappointing. It shows that new research can pop up all the time and that we have to listen to doctors when information comes to light. While the intermittent fasting diet may be right for some people based on health needs, it sounds like it would not be beneficial for many of us. If you are already following it, or have been considering it, speak to your doctor. This new research may change your doctor’s suggestions for you.
October 01, 2020
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