Intermittent fasting is a broad term that encompasses a variety of programs that manipulate the timing of eating occasions by utilizing short-term fasts in order to improve body composition and overall health.
This review examines studies conducted on intermittent fasting programs to determine if they are effective at improving body composition and clinical health markers associated with disease. Intermittent fasting protocols can be grouped into alternate-day fasting, whole-day fasting, and time-restricted feeding.
Alternate-day fasting trials of 3 to 12 weeks in duration appear to be effective at reducing body weight (≈3%-7%), body fat (≈3-5.5 kg), total cholesterol (≈10%-21%), and triglycerides (≈14%-42%) in normal-weight, overweight, and obese humans. Whole-day fasting trials lasting 12 to 24 weeks also reduce body weight (≈3%-9%) and body fat, and favorably improve blood lipids (≈5%-20% reduction in total cholesterol and ≈17%-50% reduction in triglycerides).
Research on time-restricted feeding is limited, and clear conclusions cannot be made at present. Future studies should examine long-term effects of intermittent fasting and the potential synergistic effects of combining intermittent fasting with exercise.