Intermittency: a dietary change-of-pace
Low Carb Nugget 65
When it comes to diet, “intermittency” means making frequent, significant changes in how much you eat. You need to throw your body a dietary change up, and not let it adjust to a single continuous level of intake.
(Programming note: I won’t be releasing an episode of this podcast on Saturday, October 7th. Just two nuggets this week.)
“When to Eat: Fast and Break-Fast.” Jason Fung. Medium. October 4, 2017.
“Intermittent energy restriction improves weight loss efficiency in obese men: the MATADOR study.” N.M. Byrne and others. Nature.com. September 19, 2017. (PDF of the original journal article).
Low Carb Nugget 65
“Intermittency in diet”
This is Episode 65 of the Low Carb Nugget for Thursday, October 5, 2017. I’m Jim Anderson.
A programming note: I will NOT be releasing an episode of this podcast on Saturday, October 7th. Just two nuggets this week.
A couple episodes ago, in Low Carb Nugget 63, I discussed a study out of Australia about losing weight through what I called “Intermittent Feasting.” More accurately, the approach is one of “Interrupted Caloric Restriction.” Subjects alternated between an energy restricted diet and an energy balanced diet. They lost and kept off an average of 17.8 pounds more than a control group of continuous dieters.
In their paper, the researchers claim that, for weight loss, the interrupted approach (2 weeks of energy restriction alternating with 2 weeks of energy balance) is superior not only to continuous ER (that is, energy restriction), but also to Intermittent Fasting. In the Discussion section of their article, they put it this way: “A recent 12-month clinical trial and several recent reviews have concluded that existing models of intermittent ER (largely versions of intermittent fasting), could be considered equivalent, but not superior, alternatives for weight loss.”
The researchers go on to say that their intermittent approach “differs fundamentally from intermittent fasting.” One big difference is the 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off schedule. The other is that there is no fasting going on, just calorie counting, to one degree or another.
I was curious as to how Dr. Jason Fung, the Intermittent Fasting guru, might respond to this study, and especially to the claims made in the write-up about Intermittent Fasting. Yesterday, in his blog at Medium, Dr. Fung posted an article that in part reacted to the study in question.
Fung comes across as positive and enthusiastic about the Australian study, seeing it as strong support for what he calls, “intermittency.” When it comes to diet, intermittency means making frequent, significant changes in how much you eat. This is necessary to sustain weight loss, Fung believes, because otherwise your body will steadily decrease its Resting Energy Expenditure (also known as the “basal metabolic rate”), as it has often been shown to do with continuous calorie-restricted dieting.
You need to throw your body a dietary change up, and not let it adjust to a single continuous level of intake. Otherwise, weight loss will stall, and it may even reverse.
However, Dr. Fung in his post does not respond to the researchers’ claim that, for weight loss, Intermittent Fasting is no better than standard continous dieting. In other words, that the two approaches are equivalent. I was disappointed by that lack of response. But to be fair, the claim is a secondary point. The researchers based it on prior published research, not on their own clinical study. Their experiment did not include Intermittent Fasting. It’s also possible that Dr. Fung has responded to those prior publications elsewhere. I’ll look into this more.
Meanwhile, in the same post, Dr. Fung also addresses the question of whether breakfast is the best meal to skip, if you are going to skip a meal. That was the focus of Low Carb Nugget 48. He admits that food eaten late in the day triggers a greater insulin response than food eaten early in the day (30% greater), so skipping dinner makes more sense that skipping breakfast. But he himself skips breakfast. Why? For social and lifestyle reasons. Fung and his family eat dinner together, but they rarely eat breakfast together. But while skipping breakfast may not be the optimal strategy, he thinks it’s still a good one.
I’m in a similar situation. Socially, breakfast is the easiest meal to skip. But as a short-term experiment, I will consider skipping dinner instead.
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