Turns Out, Intermittent Fasting Isn’t All Healthy

A new study shows that the much-hyped diet may not actually promote healthy weight loss.
October 1, 2020, 1:43pm
weighing scale
Photo courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels

If there’s anything more confusing than a millennial trying to decode why Gen Z people use emojis so weirdly, it’s the very conflicting diet advice out there. Water was once touted as the miracle that can cure any damn thing till we were told that actually we should trust in thirst; juicing was a trend that entered our lies in all its glory till its BS was called out; and we all know how we went with the Keto diet.

Now, the celebrity-backed intermittent fasting (also known as time-restricted eating)—a diet plan where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting, and which climbed the ranks to become the most googled diet plan in 2019–is not looking as shiny as it once did. This diet, which focused more on when to eat rather than what to eat, was touted to be one with the least side-effects. It’s said to help improve metabolic function, keep you safe from certain diseases, and even extend lifespan.

But now, a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, overturns this diet’s current numero uno position.


In a recent randomised clinical trial, 116 individuals were tracked for three months to see if the intermittent fasting diet and its claim to fame live up to the hype. The individuals who were examined for the study were classified as obese and overweight. They were divided into two groups: one followed intermittent fasting whereas the other ate three meals a day.

The researchers predicted that the individuals who followed time-restricted eating would lose more weight than the ones eating three meals a day but when the results were compared, there was no significant weight loss with the time-restricted eating. It was also noted that there were no differences in fat insulin, fasting mass, blood sugar or blood lipids between the two groups.

Participants in the fasting group lost about three and a half pounds but it was found that what they lost wasn’t fat. It was lean mass, including muscle. Usually, about 20 to 30 percent of weight you lose is lean mass but, in this study, it was 65 percent.

The results were something nobody expected, including the researchers, one of whom was even on the diet himself for seven years. It was found that time restricted eating did not help people in losing weight significantly more than eating three meals a day. What was even more shocking is that it came with a side effect i.e. the loss of lean muscle.

"No matter how you look at it, time-restricted eating resulted in very modest weight loss [about .2 pounds per week over 12 weeks on average],"said Ethan Weiss, a cardiologist at the University of California to Inverse. "It did not offer any other metabolic advantage. And then there was the concerning signal over the loss of lean mass."

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