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Lifelong Health
4 March, 2020

Weight loss trial to study long-term benefits of intermittent fasting at SAHMRI

Lifelong Health

Fasting is the most effective way to diet, according to the latest research.

Now Adelaide researchers are putting it – and its long-term health benefits – to the test in an 18-month weight-loss trial.

University of Adelaide Associate Professor Leonie Heilbronn, based at SAHMRI, is comparing intermittent fasting with a more typical, kilojoule-restricted diet or a normal diet.

The fasters can eat only breakfast and lunch within a four-hour period on three days a week and then eat “normally” on the other four.

“We’re well geared biologically for going through periods of fasting – 20 hours isn’t much of a stretch for us,” she said.

A previous 10-week study of 88 women found obese women lost more weight and improved their health by fasting intermittently.

But this new research will examine if the positive effects are long-lasting, with an intensive six-month period of fortnightly visits to SAHMRI and then a year of follow-up.

Research has shown fasting activates an important nutrient sensing molecule and inhibits an enzyme that stimulates cellular cleaning, recycling cellular debris into energy.

“Fasting also stimulates fat burning pathways and increases ketone production by the liver,” Dr Heilbronn said.

“Ketones are used as an energy source but also suppress appetite and activate stress resistance pathways so that cells are better able to withstand damage.”

Wednesday March 4 is World Obesity Day, which promotes practical solutions to end the global obesity crisis.

“Weight loss is hard – a lot of people have these expectations that they’ll lose 20-30kg, but even if you lose as little as 3 or 5 per cent of your body weight, you actually have really significant improvements in health,” she said.

“So you don’t have to have massive weight loss to reduce your risk of diabetes, stroke, cancer; really small weight loss can have large effects.”

Nigel Davis, 65, of Glenelg, who weighed 119.4kg when he started the trial in December and has since shed 7kg, said he wanted to lose weight to “keep going for another 25 years and see the grandchildren grow up”.

Weight loss trial participant Nigel Davis, 65 of Glenelg weighed 119.4kg when he started the trial in December and has since shed 7kg, bringing his weight down to 112kg.

“I have lots and lots of grandchildren and I want to be able to keep up with them,” he said.

If you are 35-75, overweight (waist 80cm for women or 94cm for men) and can visit SAHMRI clinic regularly over 18 months, email prefer@adelaide.edu.au or phone 8128 4862.

This story was reproduced with permission from The Advertiser.

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The SAHMRI community acknowledges and pays respect to the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the Adelaide region. We also acknowledge the deep feelings of attachment and the relationship of the Kaurna people to their country. We pay our respects to the Kaurna peoples' ancestors and the living Kaurna people today.