Is this the end of the hottest dieting trend of 2018? These ballsy German scientists think so.
As part of the largest study into intermittent fasting to date, researchers from the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) and Heidelberg University Hospital conducted a study called HELENA. This collaborative study found that intermittent fasting isn’t superior to conventional calorie restriction diets in any way.
“There are in fact only a few smaller studies on intermittent fasting so far, but they have come up with strikingly positive effects for metabolic health,” says DKFZ’s Ruth Schübel. “This made us curious and we intended to find out whether these effects can also be proven in a larger patient group and over a prolonged period.”
As such, Schübel and his team examined 150 overweight and obese study participants over one year as part of the HELENA study. But before we get into the specifics of the procedure, intermittent fasting is essentially a diet program which sees participants feasting within an eight hour window and then fasting for the following sixteen hours. These times can vary but the ’16:8′ diet is essentially the most popular one alongside the ‘5:2’ variant.
The purported result is often weight loss without the yo-you effect and a change in metabolism leading to health benefits. The German Nutrition Society (DGE) however disputes this. They have warned the public that intermittent fasting isn’t suitable for long-term weight regulation and add that there isn’t enough data to evaluate the long-term effects of the diet.
Enter the latest grand study. The subjects were split into three groups. Group one followed a conventional calorie restriction diet that saw their daily calorie intake reduced by 20 percent. Group two followed the 5:2 intermittent fasting plan which also saw their calorie intake reduced by 20 percent over a full week. The third group known as the control group didn’t follow a specific diet plan but were ordered to consume a balanced diet in accordance to the DGE’s recommendations.
Once the diet period ended, the researchers continued to track each participant’s weight and health status for the next 38 weeks.
Both diet models had shown the same level of improvements in health status – i.e. intermittent fasting is nothing special.
“In participants of both group, body weight and, along with it, visceral fat, or unhealthy belly fat, were lost and extra fat in the liver reduced,” Schübel reported.
As an added bonus, the study also returned results showing that there was no difference in the metabolic values, biomarkers or gene activities between the two diets. To put it bluntly, the HELENA study debunks the euphoric expectations of intermittent fasting.
“In addition, for some people it seems to be easier to be very disciplined on two days instead of counting calories and limiting food every day,” explained Tilman Kühn, leading scientist of the trial. “But in order to keep the new body weight, people must also permanently switch to a balanced diet following DGE recommendations,” he added.
What does this mean exactly? It doesn’t matter so much what diet you follow as long as you pick one method and stick with it long term to see the benefits.
“The same evidence is also suggested in a current study comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, that is, reducing carbohydrates versus reducing fat intake while otherwise having a balanced diet,” said Kühn. This study showed that the subjects also returned similar results on two different dieting methods.
Now that your bubble has been burst, the scientists say that it’s time to accept that any form of reliable dieting can be good for the body. Just don’t think that yours is better than someone else’s.