Effects of intermittent fasting and energy-restricted diets on lipid profile: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Haiyan Meng, Lei Zhu, Hamed Kord-Varkaneh, Heitor O Santos, Grant M. Tinsley, Peng Fu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Objectives: To the best of our knowledge, no systematic review and meta-analysis has evaluated the cholesterol-lowering effects of intermittent fasting (IF) and energy-restricted diets (ERD) compared with control groups. The aim of this review and meta-analysis was to summarize the effects of controlled clinical trials examining the influence of IF and ERD on lipid profiles. Methods: A systematic review of four independent databases (PubMed/Medline, Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar) was performed to identify clinical trials reporting the effects of IF or ERD, relative to non-diet controls, on lipid profiles in humans. A random-effects model, employing the method of DerSimonian and Laird, was used to evaluate effect sizes, and results were expressed as weighted mean difference (WMD) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Heterogeneity between studies was calculated using Higgins I2, with values ≥50% considered to represent high heterogeneity. Subgroup analyses were performed to examine the influence of intervention type, baseline lipid concentrations, degree of energy deficit, sex, health status, and intervention duration. Results: For the outcomes of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and triacylglycerols (TG), there were 34, 33, 35, and 33 studies meeting all inclusion criteria, respectively. Overall, results from the random-effects model indicated that IF and ERD interventions resulted significant changes in TC (WMD, –6.93 mg/dL; 95% CI, –10.18 to –3.67; P < 0.001; I2 = 78.2%), LDL-C (WMD, –6.16 mg/dL; 95% CI, –8.42 to –3.90; P ˂ 0.001; I2 = 52%), and TG concentrations (WMD, –6.46 mg/dL; 95% CI, –10.64 to –2.27; P = 0.002; I2 = 61%). HDL-C concentrations did not change significantly after IF or ERD (WMD, 0.50 mg/dL; 95% CI, –0.69 to 1.70; P = 0.411; I2 = 80%). Subgroup analyses indicated potentially differential effects between subgroups for one or more lipid parameters in the majority of analyses. Conclusions: Relative to a non-diet control, IF and ERD are effective for the improvement of circulating TC, LDL-C, and TG concentrations, but have no meaningful effects on HDL-C concentration. These effects are influenced by several factors that may inform clinical practice and future research. The present results suggest that these dietary practices are a means of enhancing the lipid profile in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110801
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Energy-restricted diet
  • High-density lipoprotein cholesterol
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Lipids
  • Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
  • Meta-analysis
  • Triacylglycerols


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