Everything you need to know about the 16:8 diet

The 16:8 diet involves fasting for 16 hours a day and eating what you like for eight [Photo: Getty]

We’ve only just got our heads round the 5:2 diet and now there’s another fasting diet on the health block.

Say hello to the 16:8 diet.

In its basic form the new eating regime involves fasting for 16 hours then eating for eight.

We know, we know, fasting for 16 hours a day doesn’t sound like any sort of fun, but recent research has revealed that the feast/famine routine may actually be good for you and help you lose weight. 

A new study, published in the journal Nutrition and Healthy Aging, recruited 23 obese men and women to follow the 16:8 diet for 12 weeks.

During the fasting period participants were only allowed to drink water and calorie-free drinks, but between 10am and 6pm, they could eat whatever and however much they liked.

Researchers compared their results against those of a previous weight loss trial of another type of intermittent fasting called “alternate day fasting.”

After 12 weeks, the researchers found that those on the 16:8 diet consumed 350 fewer calories, lost 3 percent of their weight, and had lower blood pressure.

Commenting on the results study authors said: “These findings suggest that eight-hour, time-restricted feeding produces mild caloric restriction and weight loss, without calorie counting.”

Too good to be true?

But before you decide to hop on the 16:8 bandwagon, it’s worth noting that though the study results are no doubt promising, there were some limitations.

For a start, the study was really small, so it’s difficult to draw any firm conclusions from it.

Also, it focused on obese patients, which means it is hard to know if people who are just trying to shift a few pounds would also see results.

Could the 16:8 fasting diet help you lose weight? [Photo: Getty]

What the experts think

“The 16:8 diet is a type of intermittent fasting. This means restricting your food intake to a specific eating ‘window’ during the day – in this case, an 8-hour window – and fasting outside of those times – the remaining 16 hours,” explains Nutritionist and Fitness Instructor Cassandra Barns, who is currently working in collaboration with itsu.

“There’s lots of research showing benefits of intermittent fasting, including for weight management, blood sugar control, blood pressure, warding off disease, and even maintaining brain health and memory into old age.”

Ro Huntriss, Consultant Dietitian and Expert for The Healthy Happy Mum Plan also believes there are some potential benefits to the diet.

“Creating an 8 hour eating window is a straightforward way in which people can reduce their calorie intake, and has helped many people to lose weight,” she says. “It helps to create structure within your diet, promotes awareness of your current and previous eating habits, and can prevent unnecessary snacking, for example on an evening.”

“Intermittent fasting, an example of which being the 16:8 diet, has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity which helps to control our blood sugars but also our weight. The evidence suggests that intermittent fasting could also help to reduce inflammation, promote gut health, improve sleep and reduce the risk of some metabolic diseases.”

So will the 16:8 help me lose weight?

It could do in theory says Cassandra Burns.

“The 16:8 approach can work very well for some people as an approach to weight loss, because it allows them to eat what they want, but limits the time they have to eat, which naturally lowers calorie consumption – it’s difficult to eat as much in 8 hours as you would in 14 or 16!”

But Cassandra has a word of warning for anyone wanting to start the 16:8 diet.

“The one issue I have with the 16:8 approach is that it doesn’t specify making healthy food choices. If you’re eating mainly processed foods or junk foods during your eating window, you may lose some weight but you won’t be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need for energy, metabolism and overall good health – so you won’t be reaping all the benefits of intermittent fasting,” she explains.

If you’re going to try it out she suggests adding fish and sea food such as salmon, tuna and crab into your eating window.

“They give you omega-3, protein, B vitamins to support your metabolism, and the minerals zinc, copper and selenium that support your immunity, skin and hair. This makes sushi a great ‘grab and go’ option if you’re out and about. I’d recommend itsu’s Salmon Threesome (£2.19, www.itsu.com).

There’s also the issue that sticking to the diet might mean kissing goodbye to late-night dinners and post-pub snacks.

The 16:8 diet isn’t the only eating regime creating a buzz of late. Last month we brought you the skinny (no pun intended!) on the Nordic Diet.

Yep apparently if we want to lower our risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke we should all be eating like a Viking.

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