Research successes

Intermittent fasting no more successful than conventional dieting

A research team has proven that intermittent fasting can help people to lose weight and promote health. However, the method is no more successful than conventional dieting.

Fasting for two days and eating normally for the rest of the week is one kind of “intermittent fasting”. An international team of researchers led by Dr. Ruth Schübel from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg has now investigated this dietary trend.

Comparison of three dietary methods

Schübel and her team examined 150 overweight and obese volunteers over a period of one year. They compared three different dietary methods: one group of test subjects followed the intermittent fasting regimen, eating five days a week as before and fasting on two days. A second group kept to a conventional calorie-restricted diet and reduced their daily calorie intake by 20 per cent. The control group adhered to the recommendations of the German Nutrition Society (DGE). All three groups followed the respective diet for 12 weeks. The scientists also documented the weight and health of study participants for 38 weeks afterwards. The biobank of the National Center for Tumour Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg provided important support during the research project: “In the course of the study, we collected and stored more than 18,000 biosamples for the study,” said Dr. Romy Kirsten. “Circulating metabolic biomarkers were analysed in the blood and urine samples of the study participants – these can indicate whether certain processes in the body are currently taking place or how pronounced they are. We later isolated DNA and RNA from subcutaneous adipose tissue.” For Ruth Schübel and her team of researchers, the biobank’s work served as the basis to determine whether differences existed between the groups in the activity of certain key genes that play an important role in metabolism.

Health improved by both diets

The researchers concluded that intermittent fasting is no more effective than conventional dieting. Unhealthy abdominal fat and fat deposits in the liver decreased with the body weight of the test subjects in both the fasting and the dieting groups. Similar improvements in their health were observed. The scientists also found no difference between the dieting methods in any of the other metabolic values analysed or the biomarkers and gene activities investigated.

Photo credits: Pixabay/TeroVesalainen

Scientific Publications

Schübel R, Nattenmüller J, Sookthai D, Nonnenmacher T, Graf ME, Riedl L, Schlett CL, von Stackelberg O, Johnson T, Nabers D, Kirsten R, Kratz M, Kauczor HU, Ulrich CM, Kaaks R, Kühn T: Effects of intermittent and continuous calorie restriction on body weight and metabolism over one year: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2018, DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy196

Schübel R, Nonnenmacher T, Sookthai D, Gonzalez Maldonado S, Sowah SA, von Stackelberg O, Schlett CL, Grafetstätter M, Nabers D, Johnson T, Kirsten R, Ulrich CM, Kaaks R, Kauczor HU, Kühn T, Nattenmüller J. Similar Weight Loss Induces Greater Improvements in Insulin Sensitivity and Liver Function among Individuals with NAFLD Compared to Individuals without NAFLD. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 4;11(3). pii: E544. doi: 10.3390/nu11030544.

Schübel R, Sookthai D, Greimel J, Johnson TS, Grafetstätter ME, Kirsten R, Kratz M, Ulrich CM, Kaaks R, Kühn T. Key Genes of Lipid Metabolism and WNT-Signaling Are Downregulated in Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue with Moderate Weight Loss. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 16;11(3). pii: E639. doi: 10.3390/nu11030639.


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