16:8 Diet May Help Lose Weight, But What Are The Risks?

In a new study, researchers from the University of Illinois, Chicago, demonstrated the weight loss benefits of the 16:8 diet for obese individuals.

The study titled "Effects of 8-hour time-restricted feeding on body weight and metabolic disease risk factors in obese adults: A pilot study" was published in the journal Nutrition and Healthy Aging on June 15.

The 16:8 diet, a type of intermittent fasting (IF), involves 16-hour fasts followed by 8 hours of eating anything you want. While no food should be consumed during the fasting period, calorie-free beverages like water are allowed.

Researchers recruited 23 obese participants who had an average age of 45 and an average BMI of 35. They were put on the 16:8 diet, only being allowed to eat between 10 am and 6 pm.

After 12 weeks, the group was found to have lost weight and also lowered blood pressure levels.

"These findings suggest that eight-hour, time-restricted feeding produces mild caloric restriction and weight loss, without calorie counting," the study stated.

But it should also be kept in mind that the diet is less about what you eat and more about operating in restricted time periods. If the sudden change in the eating pattern causes bouts of hunger, there is the risk of overeating or craving unhealthy foods after the fasting period ends. This could actually backfire and cause some people to gain weight.

Maintaining the diet can also be difficult, especially when you happen to be surrounded by food (perhaps, at a late night party) during your fasting period. It is important to create a schedule suited for your lifestyle and daily routines without having a strained relationship with food. 

"While research has shown some potential benefits to IF, as a dietitian and health coach who focuses on sustainable lifestyle approaches to wellness, I can't quite get on board with recommending that someone just not eat," wrote dietitian Jessica Cording.

"Fasting can be a slippery slope to unhealthy habits and a screwy relationship with food," she wrote, adding that people with a history of eating disorders might see the symptoms resurface when trying to stick to restricted time periods.

Overall, the 16:8 diet is quite safe and may not be too different from regular eating schedules if you use the 10 am to 6 pm window.

"The 16:8 diet is another tool for weight loss that we now have preliminary scientific evidence to support," lead author Krista Varady concluded. "When it comes to weight loss, people need to find what works for them because even small amounts of success can lead to improvements in metabolic health."

But it is best when adopted along with a healthy lifestyle that also includes nutritious food in the right quantity as well as adequate levels of physical activity. As with any kind of diet plan, check with a medical professional as individual circumstances may vary.