Science Investigates: Fasting vs. Calorie Restriction?

MY FITNESS PAL—People are always on the lookout for quick and easy ways to lose weight, which is why there are approximately 5 billion new diet books written every year — that’s our unscientific, but probably not inaccurate, estimate. Speaking of unscientific, the problem with the plans in these books is their so-called “new” approaches to weight loss haven’t been tested, well, scientifically. And when they get scientists to pay attention, the plans often fail to produce the stellar results they claim.

One weight-loss method that’s gotten a lot of attention lately is fasting, where people go without eating for several hours (usually 16 or more) or even a full day. Search the internet and Reddit boards, and you’ll find passionate devotees talking about the advantages of fasting for weight loss, muscle gain and other benefits, like improved mental clarity. And while there is research to back up some of these claims, much of it is preliminary or was conducted on animals.

Lately, researchers have been looking into fasting more deeply and are starting to fill this knowledge void. A study published this May in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine sought to find out whether fasting was any better or worse at helping people lose weight than a more traditional diet. Here’s what they discovered…

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