Purpose of Review
We review the underlying mechanisms and potential benefits of intermittent fasting (IF) from animal models and recent clinical trials.
Numerous variations of IF exist, and study protocols vary greatly in their interpretations of this weight loss trend. Most human IF studies result in minimal weight loss and marginal improvements in metabolic biomarkers, though outcomes vary. Some animal models have found that IF reduces oxidative stress, improves cognition, and delays aging. Additionally, IF has anti-inflammatory effects, promotes autophagy, and benefits the gut microbiome. The benefit-to-harm ratio varies by model, IF protocol, age at initiation, and duration.
We provide an integrated perspective on potential benefits of IF as well as key areas for future investigation. In clinical trials, caloric restriction and IF result in similar degrees of weight loss and improvement in insulin sensitivity. Although these data suggest that IF may be a promising weight loss method, IF trials have been of moderate sample size and limited duration. More rigorous research is needed.