Is there a benefit to fasting plus calorie counting?

Many people have successfully lost weight by having days when they don’t eat and now a year-long Chinese study has suggested time-restricted eating might be better than just eating the same reduced number of calories at normal meal times.

A total of 139 otherwise healthy people with BMIs between 28 and 45 were recruited.

All of them were told to stick to calorie-restricted diets, with ranges of 1,500-1,800 kcal per day for men and 1,200-1,500 kcal per day for women. To see if fasting improved weight lost, half the group were only allowed to eat their calories between 8am and 4pm and the others could eat their measured calories when they wanted.

At 6 months and 12 months, the volunteers were checked for weight change, body fat, BMI, blood pressure, lean body mass, and other metabolic risk factors. At one-year follow-up, 118 people were still in the study. Members of the fasting group lost slightly more weight on average than those in the non-fasting group -8.0 kg vs. 6.3 kg, and waist circumference decreased by a mean of 9.4 cm in the fasting group versus 8.8 cm in the non-fasting group.

The research team said these differences were not statistically significant, but it has been attacked by other weight loss experts in America.

“The main benefit of time-restricted eating is that you don’t need to count calories in order to lose weight,” said Kristina Varady professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois in Chicago, “Just by limiting the eating window to 8 hours per day, people naturally cut out 300-500 calories per day. That’s why people like [time-restricted eating] so much.”

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