All diets go through a similar lifecycle. Somebody tells you about a great new diet. At first you are skeptical but then you meet people who have been on the diet and have lost so many kilos that you become convinced that there must be something to the diet.
Somebody else recommends a best-selling book about the same diet. You are impressed and enthusiastic even as doctors advise you to steer clear of what they call ‘fad diets’. They repeat that you should just eat less, have three meals more regularly and take more exercise.
You dismiss the medical opinion as being out-of-touch and fuddy-duddy. Then science gets in on the act and spoils the fun. Studies are published that show that the diet is bad for you/does not work/leads only to short-term weight loss. You pause for thought and then somebody else comes along with the next trendy diet and you move on.
The cycle then repeats itself with the next diet.
So far, the craze for intermittent fasting has not yet been through the full diet lifecycle. We are still at the stage where doctors are warning against it (“You shouldn’t keep your stomach empty for so long” etc.). But these warnings are being largely disregarded and people continue to tell stories about miraculous weight loss through intermittent fasting.
Last week, the craze for intermittent fasting moved into the next phase of the diet lifecycle. Till now, there has been little scientific research into intermittent fasting. It has all been anecdotal.
Typically, all research into diets falls
into one of two categories. There is the how-it-works school of research. This examines the biological reasons for why a diet makes the body shed weight. For instance, some research looks at insulin release in the body, its effects on weight loss and whether certain foods can affect insulin levels.
Then there is the does-it-work kind of research. In this kind of study, a group of volunteers is split into two. Half of the group goes on the diet. And the other half (the so-called ‘control’ segment) eats normally. If the control segment does not lose as much weight as those on the diet, then it is reasonable to believe that the diet does cause weight loss.
So far, there has been very little work on intermittent fasting. But now, The New York Times reports that a rigorous study of intermittent fasting has been published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a well-respected journal. It is a does-it-work study, led by a cardiologist at the University of California.
A group of 116 overweight adults was split into two. The control group ate three structured meals daily while the other…