Good news for those who struggle to stick to a diet: researchers are out to prove if dieting inconsistently is actually better for your waistline.
The first participants have just started a 30-week trial at Bond University that will test if a two-week-on and two-week-off diet improves weight loss.
The research team is looking for more people to take part in the study, which will ultimately involve 50 women and 10 men, aged between 25 and 55.
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Bond University Professor Nuala Byrne, who heads the research with a team of collaborators, said the study would investigate if the ‘famine reaction’ sparked by dieting was interfering with people’s ability to shed the kilos.
“The science shows when we diet our bodies compensate by making both physiological and behavioural changes that ultimately slow weight loss and can promote weight gain,” she said.
“Participants in the study will be randomised into two groups with a different sequence of dieting, with the aim of finding out which type of program produces the best weight loss by minimising the changes to metabolism and which one is less likely to cause people to compensate in their behaviours.
“Those who take part will have all their food delivered so we can manage this process and we are expecting them to lose an average of more than eight per cent of their body weight.”
Study participant Grant Boaden said he was in his second week of the program and had already started to notice positive changes.
“I’ve always been a coffee for breakfast type of person, so the first morning I didn’t really feel like eating, but now that I’ve made myself I’m waking up and finding myself wanting to eat, which is unusual for me,” he said.
“I have been injured a fair few times in different ways in recent years, which doesn’t allow me to live as active a life as I would like to and since I’ve been on the sedentary side, I’ve gained some weight.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing for myself the effect of just changing diet and, as my background is in science, how the way you eat impacts metabolic rates is also really interesting to me.
“I’ve tried eating healthier and haven’t seen big decreases in weight, but while we all know to stay away from too much of foods like chips and chocolate, not everyone realises eating a lot of foods that are considered healthy like some fruit juices and dried fruit also means you are consuming a lot of sugar.
“It is all about learning what foods have what in them, and the research team has been so professional and supportive. With all the food delivered, sticking to the program is straight forward.”
Professor Byrne said potential participants needed a body mass index of 30 to 40kg/m2 and to have maintained a stable weight for at least six months. Participants will be required to attend weekly or fortnightly check-ins.
She said the study would help uncover why there was such a wide variance in people’s ability to lose weight.
“It will help us to better understand why some people drop the kilos easily while others struggle, and why 66 per cent of people who do lose weight regain it within a year,” she said.
“Our bodies are physiologically designed to store fat in case coming across our next meal proves difficult – and this is known as the ‘famine reaction’. Of course, in our society, the problem is that with food so readily available this reaction may actually be working against us.”
The research is being undertaken in collaboration with Queensland University of Technology, University of Sydney, Mater Research Institute (UQ) and Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Those who are interested in taking part in the study should visit matador2.bond.edu.au for more information.