Avoiding continuous dieting may be the key to losing weight and keeping the it off, a new study from the University of Tasmania finds.
The study investigated the body's 'famine reaction' to continued dieting and its impact on weight loss in men with obesity.
During the study, two groups of participants took part in a 16-week diet which cut calorie intake by one third.
One group maintained the diet continuously for 16 weeks while the other maintained the diet for two weeks, then broke from the diet for two weeks eating simply to keep their weight stable, and repeated this cycle for 30 weeks in total to ensure 16 weeks of dieting.
"Intermittent" dieters more successful
Those in the intermittent diet group not only lost more weight, but also gained less weight after the trial finished.
The intermittent diet group maintained an average weight loss of 8 kg (17.6 pounds) more than the continuous diet group, six months after the end of the diet.
The researchers explained that dieting alters a series of biological processes in the body, which can lead to slower weight loss, and possibly weight gain.
When calorie intake is reduced during dieting, the body’s resting metabolism decreases to a greater extent than expected, a phenomenon termed 'adaptive thermogenesis, which makes weight loss harder to achieve.
The researchers noted this 'famine reaction', a survival mechanism which helped humans to survive as a species when food supply was inconsistent in millennia past, is now contributing to our growing waistlines when the food supply is readily available.
Previous studies have shown that as dieting continues weight loss becomes more difficult, but this latest study looked more closely at ways to lessen the famine response and improve weight loss success.
The two-week intermittent diet proved to be a more successful means of weight loss compared with continuous dieting, but other popular diets which included cycles of several days of fasting and feasting were not any more effective that continuous dieting.
The 'breaks' from dieting used in this study may be critical to the success of weight loss.
While further investigations are needed around this intermittent dieting approach, findings from this study provide preliminary support for the approach as superior alternative to continuous dieting for weight loss.
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