By John Salak –
There is no question that intermittent fasting is well-known and well-practiced. Proponents of this diet note that going hours—not days—without food causes a metabolic switch, leading the body to use up its stored sugar and start burning fat.
There appears to be some, albeit limited, professional support for the approach from Johns Hopkins Medicine and The Mayo Clinic. There is also widespread popular interest in the diet, as one survey reported that more than 80 percent of Americans have heard of intermittent fasting, and 23 percent of U.S. adults have tried the diet, according to HealthReporter.com.
Ultimately, however, the frequency and size of meals may have a stronger impact on weight loss than the time between the first and last meals, according to a recent study published by the American Heart Association.
The research team generated its finding after creating a mobile application, Daily24, for the study’s nearly 550 participants that in real-time cataloged sleeping, eating and wake-up time for each 24-hour window. Those involved had at least one weight measurement registered two years before the study’s enrollment period.
Based on the app’s recordings, researchers measured the time from the first meal to the last meal each day, the time lapse from waking to the first meal, and the interval from the last meal to sleep.
Based on the calculated average of the data collected, there is no link between meal timing and weight change. The number of calories consumed, however, did have an impact. The total daily number of large meals (more than 1,000 calories each) and medium meals (500-1,000 calories each) increased weight over the six-year follow-up. In contrast, There was a link between fewer small meals (estimated at less than 500 calories) and weight loss.
Prior studies have suggested intermittent fasting may improve the body’s rhythms and regulate metabolism, according to the study’s senior author Wendy L. Bennett, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. Yet she noted that her study, which involved a large group of participants with a wide range of body weights, did not detect this link.
Admittedly, large-scale, rigorous clinical trials of intermittent fasting on long-term weight change are extremely difficult to conduct, Bennett added.