As obesity rates continue to rise worldwide, research remains focused on evidence-based weight loss strategies. 

One such strategy that has garnered considerable attention is intermittent energy restriction. This weight loss approach involves short periods of energy restriction interspersed with alternating periods of prescribed energy restriction or normal eating. For many adults, intermittent energy restriction has proven to be an effective weight loss strategy.  Unlike conventional approaches, intermittent energy restriction involves shorter periods of energy restriction and has greater flexibility.  A recent study, published in the July 2019 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, suggests that adolescents with obesity may also benefit from intermittent energy restriction.

A study conducted by A/Prof Sarah Garnett (The University of Sydney) and colleagues investigated the feasibility, effectiveness, and acceptability of intermittent energy restriction in adolescents with obesity.  During weeks 1-12, participants followed an intermittent energy restricted dietary plan consisting of a very-low-energy diet 3 d/wk (500-600 kcal/d) and an eating plan consistent with national dietary guidelines 4 d/wk. For weeks 13-26, participants chose to continue with 1-3 very-low-energy diet/wk or follow a prescriptive eating plan.

Of 45 adolescents invited to participate in the study, 23 participants chose to continue with the very-low-energy diet 2-3 d/wk, and 21 completed the study, indicating the feasibility of intermittent energy restriction. Nineteen adolescents completed an acceptability interview, rating intermittent energy restriction as easy and pleasant to follow.  Compared to baseline, there was a reduction in body mass index, percent body fat, and triglyceride concentrations, and favorable changes in cardiometabolic indices.

These findings demonstrate that intermittent energy restriction is a feasible, effective, and acceptable intervention in adolescents with obesity to achieve weight loss and reductions in cardiovascular disease risk in the short-term. These results add to the adult literature on the use of intermittent energy restriction, indicating that it may be an alternative eating plan for adolescents with obesity.

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Reference Jebeile H, Gow ML, Lister NB, Haghighi MM, Ayer J, Cowell CT, Baur LA, Garnett SP. Intermittent Energy Restriction Is a Feasible, Effective, and Acceptable Intervention to Treat Adolescents with Obesity. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 149, Issue 7, July 2019, Pages 1189–1197,