Does intermittent fasting really work if you want to lose weight?

One recent study suggests when you eat could be just as important as the amount of food you eat

Woman checks her time as she is sat down about to eat
(Image credit: Getty)

Our diets play an important role towards our overall health. Science has previously advised that lowering calorie intake (within reason) can promote weight loss, improve blood sugar control and prolong our lives. But new research suggests that when we eat could be just as important as how much we eat when looking to improve our health and increase longevity.

Sometimes just knowing how to eat healthily isn’t enough and people require greater structure in their diet. Hence why some people opt to eat in a calorie deficit. However, a new study published in the journal Nature Metabolism found that a reduced calorie intake is not enough, and that fasting is also required to experience the full benefits of eating fewer calories.

Scientists have known for around a century that lowering the calorie consumption of a mouse increases their lifespan. But the researchers at the University of Wisconsin wanted to find out if there is more to it than just how much they eat.

After dividing the mice up and prescribing them different diets the researcher found that the mice who benefited the most from positive traits such as better blood sugar control, healthier use of fat energy, reducing frailty and prolonging life spans, were on diets that included fewer calories and fasting. 

A plate of food separates a portion of food to the side with cutlery

(Image credit: Getty)

Researchers also found that fasting alone, without reducing the volume of food consumed, had just as much of an impact as having a diet of calorie restricting and fasting had. The scientists were able to prove that fasting on its own can improve insulin sensitivity and reprogram the metabolism to focus on using fats as a source of energy.

Lead researcher Dudley Lamming said, "If fasting is the main driver of health, we should be studying drugs or diet interventions that mimic fasting rather than those that mimic fewer calories."

A popular fasting diet that is subscribed to by many is one known as intermittent fasting. This is when you abstain from eating for a certain window of time, before eating regularly again. It follows the idea that our metabolisms reacts differently at certain times. It is thought that being more strategic with our food timing could help us store less fat.

It is important to note that not every diet study conducted on rodents will translate to humans, but intermittent fasting does have plenty of research to support it, such as cognitive and weight loss benefits according to Harvard University. Paired with the best exercises for weight loss, you'll be well on your way to shedding unwanted lbs. If you are considering trying out a fasting related diet, be sure to read up on things like intermittent fasting methods explained to get a more rounded understanding before jumping into a new diet.

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 

When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.