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Researchers from the University of Tasmania in Australia recently conducted an experiment, which was published in the International Journal of Obesity, to determine ways to improve weight loss success based on eating patterns.
To do so, they assessed 51 obese men over a four-month period, breaking them off into two groups. Those in the first one were asked to follow a diet, which cut one-third of their calories, for all four months. Those in the second group were required to go on the same diet only for two weeks, taking a break from it for the next two weeks. They repeated the cycle eight times.
After analyzing the data, they found that those who took breaks lost 50 percent more weight than those who didn’t. Those who deviated from the plan also shed more fat.
Six months after the study, both groups regained weight. However, those who took breaks were about 18 pounds lighter than those who followed the diet continuously.
Why is that?
Researchers believe dieting can alter the body’s biological process, which can lead to slower weight loss or even weight gain.
“When we reduce our energy (food) intake during dieting, resting metabolism decreases to a greater extent than expected; a phenomenon termed ‘adaptive thermogenesis’ – making weight loss harder to achieve,” co-author Nuala Byrne said in a statement. “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.”
Although the researchers’ method proved to be more successful than nonstop dieting, they noted that it wasn’t more effective than other popular diets. But it could provide another weight loss alternative.
“It seems that the ‘breaks’ from dieting we have used in this study may be critical to the success of this approach,” Byrne said. “While further investigations are needed around this intermittent dieting approach, findings from this study provide preliminary support for the model as a superior alternative to continuous dieting for weight loss.”