Intermittent fasting has been gaining popularity since 2012, when a BBC documentary aired concerning the subject. In the ensuing years, a number of books have been written on the diet craze, and anecdotal evidence showed it was an effective method of weight loss.
The science behind the idea is relatively straightforward: By limiting eating hours to one six- to eight-hour period, the human body will start lowering its insulin levels. Once that begins, fat cells start releasing stored sugar for energy. Insulin levels go down, fat cells release sugar, weight drops off.
Science has been catching up with this weight loss method, and a recent University of Alabama study showed that even four extra hours of insulin lowering a day can have a profound effect on health. Furthermore, a review of 40 different studies found an average weight loss of 7-11 pounds over a 10-week period.
CivicScience took at look at this burgeoning weight loss trend, and a full quarter of American adults have tried intermittent fasting, with people who liked it nearly doubling those who didn’t.
At any given time, nearly a quarter of American adults are on a diet, as the first chart below demonstrates. And for people who are dieting right now, intermittent fasting is a very popular method for weight loss, with 33% of current dieters saying they’ve tried and liked limiting their food intake to a short period during the day.
A Look at Fasting by Gender and Age
Across gender lines at all ages, at first there’s not much difference. Men are slightly more likely than women to have tried and liked intermittent fasting, but both genders tried it at about the same rate.
Breaking it down by age alone, the first real difference emerges, with each ascending generation becoming less likely to have tried intermittent fasting. In fact, Gen Z was 129% more likely to have tried it than those age 55 and over.
But looking at age and gender together, the differences become even more defined. Twenty-eight percent of Gen Z and Millennial men said they tried and liked intermittent fasting, compared to 22% of women under 35 years of age. Specifically Millennial men were the most likely to have tried and liked intermittent fasting (30%), while only 19% of their female counterparts said the same.
Additionally, intermittent fasting seems to be more of a city thing, as urban residents tried and liked it at nearly double the rate of rural Americans.
Lastly, people who tried and liked intermittent fasting are four times more likely to focus on protein when they eat compared to dieters overall.
Fad diets come and go, but very few have the benefit of science behind them. And while it’s still early in the intermittent fasting game, with the large percentage of younger Americans who have tried and liked it, it would seem likely this craze will graduate to a standard part of American weight loss methods.