Following a specific eating plan such as a calorie-restrictive diet, a low-carb/high-fat diet, or an intermittent fasting schedule can be helpful for weight loss, but to get even more benefits, researchers suggest you may want to consider alternating all three.
In a study published in the journal Nutrition, researchers looked at 227 adults who sought medical intervention for weight loss and were advised to follow one of those three approaches. After following one of the diets, 154 participants then switched to another of the dietary interventions, and then the third. During the intermittent fasting—also called time-restricted eating—they still maintained a low-carb, high-fat plan.
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About 78% of patients lost about 5% of their body weight when following a single diet, and there was no difference in the amount of weight loss achieved based on diet type. Those who did the three plans in succession, however, lost almost double that amount, suggesting that switching up your weight-loss strategy could propel you toward your goals more effectively.
“Staying on the same diet can be challenging, and is often a reason that people stop doing it,” says lead author Rebecca Christensen, Ph.D.(c) at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. “That’s why it’s encouraging to see that successive diets may have an effect. It could be easier for many people to switch to a new dietary intervention than stick to one plan that’s long-term.”
That said, she emphasizes that those who lost “only” 5% of their body weight were still gaining major advantages for their health. That’s because that modest amount is associated with improvements in cardiometabolic function in past research.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a loss of 5 to 10% of total body weight can help with blood pressure and blood sugar regulation and may lower cholesterol. That’s true even if you stay in the overweight or obese category, the CDC adds, and maintaining that weight loss over time can continue to offer benefits such as better energy levels, greater physical mobility, improved mood, and higher self-confidence.
“Think of this as a variety of different tools you can choose when you’re deciding on a dietary intervention,” says Christensen. “You don’t have to pick only one and stick to that. This study shows there are benefits to going back to the toolbox along the way.”
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