Although traditional continuous energy restriction may facilitate weight loss, several studies have shown that it may lead to compensatory eating behaviors such as increased appetite and weakened satiety signals. Intermittent energy restriction is an alternative behavioral weight loss strategy that may mitigate the loss of fat-free mass, potentially reducing compensatory adaptations in appetite.

Until recently, few studies have examined the effects of intermittent energy restriction on appetite and eating behavior traits, and potential effects on food reward and cravings. However, results from a new study published in The Journal of Nutrition suggests that neither continuous energy restriction nor intermittent energy restriction lead to compensatory adaptations in appetite in women with overweight/obesity.

Women with overweight/obesity aged 18-55 y were recruited for this controlled-feeding randomized, controlled trial. Participants were unaware that the study aimed to compare the effect of continuous energy restriction and intermittent energy restriction, with matched degrees of weight loss, on appetite. Body composition, energy intake and subjective appetite in response to a fixed-energy breakfast, and eating behavior traits were measured at baseline and post-intervention.

Lead author Kristine Beaulieu (University of Leeds) and colleagues concluded that controlled weight loss via continuous energy restriction or intermittent energy restriction did not differentially affect changes in body composition, reductions in hunger and improvements in eating behavior. Overall, both groups achieved similar changes in body composition with weight loss without any compensatory increases in hunger, food intake or weakening of satiety. Rather, there was a reduction in hunger and desire to eat after weight loss in both groups. The study shows that both continuous energy restriction and intermittent energy restriction did not lead to any detrimental compensatory adaptations in appetite and eating behavior after >5% weight loss in women with overweight and obesity.

Reference  Beaulieu K, Casanova N, Oustric P, Turicchi J, Gibbons C, Hopkins M, Varady K, Blundell J, Finlayson G. Matched Weight Loss Through Intermittent or Continuous Energy Restriction Does Not Lead to Compensatory Increases in Appetite and Eating Behavior in a Randomized Controlled Trial in Women with Overweight and Obesity. J Nutr 2019 Dec 11 (Epub ahead of print; DOI:

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