Dietary patterns with intermittent energy restriction (IER) have been proposed as an attractive alternative to continuous energy restriction (CER) for the management of obesity and its associated comorbidities. The most widely studied regimens of IER comprise energy restriction on two days per week (5:2), alternate-day energy restriction by 60–70% (ADF), and timely restriction of energy intake during a specific time window within the day (TRF; time-restricted feeding). Although there is some evidence to suggest that IER can exert beneficial effects on human cardiometabolic health, yet is apparently not superior compared to CER, there are still some critical issues/questions that warrant further investigation: (i) high-quality robust scientific evidence regarding the long-term effects of IER (safety, efficacy, compliance) is limited since the vast majority of intervention studies had a duration of less than 6 months; (ii) whether the positive effects of IER are independent of or actually mediated by weight loss remains elusive; (iii) it remains unknown whether IER protocols are a safe recommendation for the general population; (iv) data concerning the impact of IER on ectopic fat stores, fat-free mass, insulin resistance and metabolic flexibility are inconclusive; (v) the cost-effectiveness of IER dietary regimens has not been adequately addressed; (vi) direct head-to-head studies comparing different IER patterns with variable macronutrient composition in terms of safety and efficacy are scarce; and (vii) evidence is limited with regard to the efficacy of IER in specific populations, including males, the elderly and patients with morbid obesity and diabetes mellitus. Until more solid evidence is available, individualization and critical perspective are definitely warranted to determine which patients might benefit the most from an IER intervention, depending on their personality traits and most importantly comorbid health conditions.
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