Not so Fast: Is Calorie Restriction All Hype?


A red alarm clock lies on a plate next to the fork and knife | Image by Shutterstock

Is fasting simply the latest trend in nutrition, or is it a time-tested weight management strategy that most people can benefit from? What exactly is it, and what are the purported benefits?

Fasting is the cessation of calorie consumption over a specified period. Typically, this means not eating and only consuming water. In some cases, individuals supplement with minerals, like salt, or include zero-calorie beverages, like black coffee.

A fast can last any length of time. Fasting regularly for short periods is referred to as intermittent fasting, with eating restricted to a specific block of time each day. A 16:8 intermittent fast, for example, entails fasting for 16 hours each day and only eating during the remaining 8 hours.

Marcela Fiuza, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, stated, “Intermittent fasting, in particular time-restricted eating like the 5:2 or 16:8, has become popular in recent years.”

With obesity in the United States hovering around all-time highs and millions of Texans suffering from weight-related health conditions, different weight management strategies are starting to catch on. Still, it is unclear how effective any given one can be.

According to Live Science, fasting is thought to have numerous benefits, like improving gut health and blood pressure management. Still, some individuals, like pregnant women or those suffering from eating disorders, should use caution when fasting.

A trained dietitian herself, Fiuza claimed, “Some forms of fasting may be beneficial to the gut microbiome, which has been linked to a range of health benefits from improved metabolic health, reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and obesity.”

Debilitating health conditions related to obesity have been on the rise in recent years, with both diabetes and dementia being at least in part driven by an alarming trend of weight gain across the country, as previously reported in The Dallas Express.

Fasting has been shown to help manage blood sugar levels, according to Live Science. Properly managed blood sugar levels help control weight gain and lower the risk of developing diabetes.

It is also thought to promote a biological process known as autophagy, which is the breakdown and recycling of old cell parts. One study discovered that autophagy could “reset” the body and improve efficiency by removing cellular debris, including mutated, potentially cancerous cells.

However, while fasting can result in weight loss, it may only be a short-term solution. According to Fiuza, fasting “doesn’t appear to be superior to other types of calorie-restricted diets for this purpose.” While studies have shown fasting can reduce baseline body weight by upwards of 13%, it comes with a cost, like headaches and irritability.

Local dietitian Isabella Ferrari seems to concur, having previously told The Dallas Express that losing weight can be a slow journey and asserting that it is important for people to live active lifestyles and prioritize planning healthy meals over the convenience of eating out.

While benefits appear numerous, Fiuza recommends consulting with a medical professional before undertaking a fast, especially ones that last more than 24 hours.

“Prolonged fasting is much more intense than intermittent fasting and anyone considering it should speak to their healthcare professional beforehand,” said Fiuza.

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2 months ago

If do it carefully and not abruptly it would be okay.

Annabel Calhoun
Annabel Calhoun
2 months ago

I fast until 2 or 3pm for mental clarity! Works like a charm. Definitely don’t have the self control to go much longer