You can stop intermittent fasting now, new research says

In a year-long study, time-restricted eating didn't help people lose weight.

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Healthy or Hype?

For years, intermittent fasting (IF) has seemed like one of the only evidence-based approaches to weight loss. Study after study continues to suggest that there are many benefits to time-restricted eating and what’s more, people really took to the idea. So much so that IF isn’t even really just a trend anymore, it’s an eating habit mainstay. But science is ever-evolving and there’s new research about IF that’s worth exploring. This new study boldy suggests that intermittent fasting doesn’t actually help with weight loss.

The study, which was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, included 139 people with obesity in China. For a year, participants followed a low calorie diet, which was 1,200 to 1,800 calories a day, depending on their assigned gender. Researchers randomly assigned half of the group to eat only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., while the other half had no time restrictions. To make sure that individuals were following their assigned plan, they were required to photograph everything they ate and keep a food diary for the entire length of the study.

All of the participants in the study lost weight — an average of between 14 and 18 pounds, but the scientists found no difference in the amount of weight lost by those who followed the time restrictions and those who did not. They also found no difference between the groups in other important health indicators, like blood pressure or glucose levels. Basically, the time window in which the participants ate didn’t make any measurable difference.

“There is no benefit to eating in a narrow window,” Ethan Weiss, a diet researcher at the University of California, told the New York Times following the publication of the research. This new report seems to confirm other recent research on intermittent fasting — some of which was conducted by Weiss and his colleagues at University of California. “These results indicate that caloric intake restriction explained most of the beneficial effects seen with the time-restricted eating regimen,” Weiss told NYT.

These are hard words for some IF devotees to hear, but honestly, this study is not going to change how a lot of us eat. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for five years and I love it. To be fair, I’ve never used time-restricted eating as a way to lose weight. Having a structure around my eating habits just gives me more time and energy to do life well.

Plus, there are other scientically-backed health benefits of IF such as potentially reducing inflammation in the body and even alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression. And not for nothing, but I like intermittent fasting and I long for a day that weight isn’t the measure of whether a certain way of eating is “good” or not.