CHICAGO — The practice of daily fasting can not only help you lose weight, it may also improve your blood pressure, according to a study by researchers at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
Researchers say that cutting yourself off from all foods at the same time every night and not beginning to eat until the same time every morning could prove effective for people hoping to shed some pounds.
For the study, researchers recruited 23 obese volunteers with an average age of 45 and an average body mass index (BMI) of 35. It’s believed to be the first study to analyze the effects of the “16:8 diet,” in which individuals fast for 16 hours and “feast” for 8 hours every day.
“The results we saw in this study are similar to the results we’ve seen in other studies on alternate day fasting, another type of diet,” says corresponding author Krista Varady, associate professor of kinesiology and nutrition at UIC, in a news release. “But one of the benefits of the 16:8 diet may be that it is easier for people to maintain. We observed that fewer participants dropped out of this study when compared to studies on other fasting diets.”
The dieters in the study could eat any type or quantity of food they wanted between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., but they could only drink water or calorie-free beverages during the other 16 hours of the day. The study lasted for 12 weeks.
The results, when compared to a similar control group from a previous fasting and weight loss trial, revealed that those who followed the 16:8 diet consumed about 350 fewer daily calories, improved their blood pressure by 7 mmHg, and lost 3% of body weight on average. Other measures of healthy weight, including fat mass, insulin resistance, and cholesterol, remained similar to the control group.
“The 16:8 diet is another tool for weight loss that we now have preliminary scientific evidence to support. When it comes to weight loss, people need to find what works for them because even small amounts of success can lead to improvements in metabolic health,” says Varady. “The take-home message from this study is that there are options for weight loss that do not include calorie counting or eliminating certain foods,” says Varady.
Varady says that more research is needed on the effectiveness of fasting.
The study was published in the journal Nutrition and Healthy Aging.