A new study has revealed that having a break during a diet may help people to lose weight and better still, keep it off.
The method suggested by researchers is eating a calorie controlled diet (reducing calories by a third) for two weeks, then having a break for two weeks, which is more effective than continuously being on a diet.
For the weight loss to work it is important firstly that once the two-week break is over, the calorie restriction must restart for the next two weeks and secondly during the break time a sensible healthy diet must be followed.
The study, carried out at the University of Tasmania, Australia and led by Professor Nuala Byrne believes the success of this way of dieting is to do with the body’s ‘famine reaction.’
When dieting, the body changes certain processes that leads to slower weight loss and even weight gain.
Prof Byrne said, “When we reduce our energy (food) intake during dieting, resting metabolism decreases to a greater extent than expected, making weight loss harder to achieve.
“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.”
Researchers studied two groups of obese men. They each took part in a 16 week-diet where their calorie intake as reduced by a third.
Group one remained on the diet for 16 weeks, whereas the second group alternated every two weeks. The second group consumed enough calories to keep their weight stable and continued the cycle of diet and diet-break for 30 weeks. This ensured that they had 16 weeks of dieting overall like the first group.
The results revealed that the second group lost more weight and were most likely to keep it off once the study was over. Group two lost an average of 1st 2oz more than group one, who were on a continuous diet, and they kept it off for six months after the study period.
Prof Byrne said, “It seems that the ‘breaks’ from dieting we have used in this study may be critical to the success of this approach.
“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.”
The findings of this study have been published in the International Journal of Obesity.