Intermittent Fasting: Calories, Not Magic, May Be the Key to Weight Loss

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Intermittent Fasting: Calories, Not Magic, May Be the Key to Weight Loss

Intermittent fasting, also known as time-restricted eating (TRE), has been a popular weight loss trend. However, a new study suggests the reason it works might be simpler than previously thought.

Study Design:

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University conducted a randomized controlled trial with 41 participants, mostly Black women with obesity and pre-diabetes/diabetes. Half followed a time-restricted diet (TRE) for 12 weeks, eating only within an 8 am to 6 pm window with 80% of daily calories consumed before 1 pm. The other half ate a usual eating pattern (UEP) with meals spread out between 8 am and midnight. Both groups received controlled meals with identical calorie and nutrient content, ensuring the only difference was the eating window.


  • Both groups lost a similar amount of weight (around 5.3 pounds) after 12 weeks.
  • There were no significant differences in blood sugar control, waist circumference, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels between the groups.


The study suggests that TRE's effectiveness for weight loss might simply be due to reduced calorie intake. When total calorie intake is matched between groups, restricting the eating window doesn't lead to additional weight loss.

What the Experts Say:

Nutrition experts acknowledge the study's limitations but find the results unsurprising. They emphasize:

  • Calories Matter: Weight loss boils down to consuming fewer calories than you burn. TRE may help some people achieve this by naturally limiting their eating window.
  • Simplicity Matters: Compared to tracking daily calories, TRE offers a potentially easier approach for weight management, especially for those who struggle with strict calorie counting.

The Bottom Line:

While intermittent fasting may not be a magical solution, it can be a helpful tool for weight loss if it encourages you to eat fewer calories overall. It's a straightforward strategy that could be particularly beneficial for those who find traditional calorie counting challenging.

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