In the past, we have written about how different approaches can help one aspect of your health without improving another. For instance, one exercise might be great for your heart but not useful for balance, while another might be the exact opposite. It’s always about finding what fits your goals. There is no one best thing for everyone.
We recently wrote a blog about a study that found that calorie counting and small meals were better for weight loss than intermittent fasting. It found that meal timing didn’t aid weight loss at all. That seemed like a mighty blow against intermittent fasting, which many have been praising for years.
However, a new study has found that intermittent fasting may help blood sugar, even without weight loss. “Our study indicates that meal timing and fasting advice extends the health benefits of a restricted calorie diet, independently from weight loss, and this may be influential in clinical practice,” said study author Xiao Tong Teong, a postdoctoral researcher at the Univ. of Adelaide.
Some folks in the study followed a low-calorie diet. Others ate a low-calorie diet and combined it with eating only between 8 am and noon three days a week. Everyone lost roughly the same amount of weight. However, people in the fasting group also saw better blood sugar numbers. Those results remained for at least six months after finishing the diet but faded after 18 months if they stopped fasting.
“This is very hard to sustain long-term as people don’t like skipping dinner with their families/friends on several days per week,” said Krista Varady, a professor of nutrition at the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago. She was not involved with the study. “The long-term feasibility of this eating pattern doesn’t seem great.”
“This is the largest study in the world to date and the first powered to assess how the body processes and uses glucose after eating a meal, which is a better indicator of [a blood sugar health] risk than a fasting test,” said Ms. Teong.
While it’s the largest to date, the study included just over 200 people. The study lasted 18 months. They were on their prescribed diets for six months and then told to follow a maintenance plan of their choice afterward, as they were monitored for 12 months. A follow-up study could show if allowing people to eat for a longer window would yield similar results. They might make it something that could be sustainable as a long-term eating plan.
If you have borderline blood sugar concerns or are at risk of developing blood sugar concerns, this diet could be a good option for you. However, this is not a solution for people who take blood sugar medicine or who have a serious blood sugar concern. You should also speak to your doctor before changing to a restrictive diet. Eating only four hours a day, three days a week is extreme and unsuitable for many people.