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What Is The 16:8 Diet?

The 16:8 Diet, a type of intermittent-fasting eating pattern, may lead to weight loss and a lower blood pressure.

The “16:8 Diet”, which is a type of intermittent fasting diet, is based on fasting for a period of 16 hours and eating anything that you want for the other 8 hours in a day. This is not the first intermittent fasting diet to garner attention — perhaps you have heard of the "5:2 Diet." People who follow the 5:2 Diet have two fast days during which women restrict their calories to a mere 500 calories per day and men restrict their calories to just 600 calories a day. The other five days people on the 5:2 Diet can eat whatever they want.

A recent study, headed up by professors in the kinesiology and nutrition department of the University of Illinois (Chicago), found that the 16:8 Diet helps obese participants lose weight as well as decrease their blood pressure. The results of this study have been published in the scientific Journal of Nutrition and Healthy Aging. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 93 million adults in the United States are obese, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the population. Yikes! This is one reason that results of studies like these are so intriguing.

The Study

Although the study included only a small number of participants, the results are promising and may prompt more researchers to explore the science behind this diet and other types of intermittent fasting diets. The study included 23 obese individuals with an average age of 45 years and a body mass index (abbreviated BMI) averaging at 35 (obesity class 2). The participants were told they could eat whatever foods they wanted in whatever amounts they wanted between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. During the fasting hours of 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m., they were only allowed to consume water and non-caloric beverages. Participants followed this diet for 12 weeks and the outcomes of this study were compared to another weight-loss study for which participants followed a different type of intermittent fasting diet—“Alternate Day Fasting.” In the Alternate Day Fasting Diet, you fast for one day and eat anything you want the next day, and repeat.

When researchers compared the results from these two fasting studies, they discovered that participants following the 16:8 Diet took in 350 fewer calories each day, lowered their blood pressure by 7 mm/Hg on average, and dropped 3 percent of their total body weight. However, fat mass in participants in both studies stayed the same.

Of course, more randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded clinical trials with a larger group of participants followed over a longer period of time need to be conducted. One positive note about the 16:8 Diet when compared to other types of fasting diets is that this diet was easier for people to follow and actually stick with over time (fewer participants dropped out of this study compared to other fasting studies).

The Main Idea

Eating plans that center on specific time restrictions, when followed correctly, may be the ticket to weight loss for some people. Eating and exercise patterns for weight loss must be individualized, meaning what works for one individual may not work for you, and vice versa. You must find what aligns with your goals, your daily habits, your food preferences, and your lifestyle.

What may work about the 16:8 Diet and other types of intermittent fasting diets are that they may cause people to take in fewer calories overall, over time, which would lead to weight loss regardless of how the diet is structured. As a clinician, I would like to see more long-term studies involving a much larger group of participants over a much longer duration to be done to evaluate not only the efficacy of intermittent fasting diets, but the safety and long-term health effects of these eating patterns as well.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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