America has become a nation of snackers and around-the-clock eaters. But for people who want to get healthy, it might be a good idea to avoid the kitchen more often. Intermittent fasting—cycling between periods of normal consumption and periods of lower calorie intake—has become increasingly popular, and research is starting to show that the approach has promise for weight loss and other health measures. Case in point: A March study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that people with excess weight who followed the 5:2 diet—5 days a week of normal eating and 2 days limited to 600 calories—lost 5% of their body weight more quickly than those who followed a more conventional diet (eating 600 fewer calories each day than the level estimated for weight maintenance).

Intermittent fasters also experienced greater drops in systolic blood pressure numbers and cleared triglycerides (fat) from their blood more efficiently after eating meals, both of which may lessen the risk for heart disease. Mechanisms are still being studied, but it might be that this eating approach improves metabolic functioning, such as insulin sensitivity, and allows the body to become more efficient at burning body fat during calorie-restricted periods.

So, with obesity rates continuing to rise, do you think intermittent fasting is a viable and sustainable dieting option? Have you experimented with this dietary approach? What do you see as the pros and cons? Send your responses to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected].

Editor’s note: For a closer look at intermittent fasting and other time-restricted feeding methods, see “Is It Time to Eat Yet?” by Pamela M. Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, FACSM, in our July–August issue.