Study shows intermittent fasting has similar results to traditional weight loss methods

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Dieting Will Help You Lose Weight More Than Exercise

The U.K. study focused on the 5:2 diet

Many people use intermittent fasting to lose weight, but a new study looks at its effectiveness.

The study, led by Queen Mary University of London, is the first randomized analysis of the 5:2 diet. This diet, according to Healthline, finds participants eating just 500–600 calories on two nonconsecutive days of the week. Then, they eat normally on the other 5 days.

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The study involved 300 U.K. adults with obesity. Researchers evaluated the long-term effects of 5:2 diet instructions compared to traditional weight loss advice over one year.

Results were published last week in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed journal.

The study saw people following the traditional weight-loss method participate in 20-minute sessions with an advisor who explained the program. The advisor discussed key tips offered in supporting materials, including a pamphlet listing local exercise resources.

Meanwhile, the 5:2 group received a pamphlet about caloric intake restrictions on two non-consecutive days a week. It included examples of meals containing the required amount of calories. It also had pointers to more online support which was part of an individual 20-minute session.

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Findings showed long-term weight loss was similar for participants who received 5:2 diet advice and traditional weight management advice. Of those following the 5:2 diet, 18% lost at least 5% of their body weight in a year. That’s compared to 15% of participants who followed traditional weight management instructions. But people following the 5:2 diet were more likely to recommend the diet or continue it.

Researchers also studied how a weekly support group affects participants on top of simple 5:2 diet advice. In-person support initially resulted in better early effects and improved adherence to the 5:2 diet. But the effects decreased over time.

“Here we’ve been able to provide the first results on the effectiveness of simple 5:2 diet advice in a real-life setting,” Dr. Katie Myers Smith, Chartered Health Psychologist and Senior Research Fellow at Queen Mary, said in a statement. “We found that although the 5:2 diet wasn’t superior to traditional approaches in terms of weight loss, users preferred this approach as it was simpler and more attractive. Based on these findings, (general practitioners) may consider recommending the 5:2 diet as part of their standard weight management advice.”