(The Talk) — Celebrities have popularized all sorts of offbeat diet trends over the years. One of the latest trends among celebrities is the “One Meal A Day” (or “Omad”) diet.
Omad’s fans include Bruce Springsteen and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. Many Omad advocates claim it helps them better control their weight and stay fit.
Essentially, Omad is a more extreme version of other types of fasting diets, such as intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating. The main difference is that people who follow Omad don’t just fast on certain days or only eat their meals during a certain window of time, but eat all the calories of their day in one, large meal.
But while Omad advocates say that following the diet improves many aspects of health, we actually know very little about the effects of eating just one meal a day on the body — let alone whether it’s safe.
fasting and health
There is limited evidence of Omad use. Very few studies have actually looked at Omad herself — and most of them have been done on animals.
As such, most claims of Omad working are anecdotal. Or they are based on the assumption that Omad can also do this when other forms of fasting are beneficial to health.
Research on fasting diets is still in its infancy. Some evidence suggests that a form of intermittent fasting, known as the “5:2 diet” (where a person eats normally five days a week, then 800 calories or less two days a week), people can help you better control your weight. However, it is no better than other diet approaches.
Research has also found that timed eating (where you eat all of the day’s calories within a certain time frame) can help people better control their weight. And it has other health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure.
A review study also found that many different types of fasting (including intermittent fasting and fasting every other day) can improve various aspects of metabolism. These include improving blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reducing inflammation and supporting better appetite regulation. This, in turn, can help reduce a person’s risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Just one meal
A previous study examined the effects of Omad in humans. In this study, participants consumed the same number of calories each day for the duration of the study. For half of the study, participants consumed those calories in a single meal before switching and dividing their daily calories into three meals a day.
Each eating pattern was only followed for a period of 11 days – not very long at all. One meal was taken between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Only 11 participants completed the study.
When participants ate just one meal a day, they saw greater reductions in their body weight and fat mass. However, participants also experienced greater decreases in muscle mass and bone density when they ate just one meal a day. This could lead to reduced muscle function and an increased risk of fractures if the diet is followed for a long time.
Animal studies examining the effects of Omad have shown conflicting results. Research showed that mice that ate one large meal a day actually gained more weight than those that ate multiple meals.
Although these results might suggest that omad might be beneficial in some aspects of health, we still don’t know much about it. It will be important for future studies to examine the effects of Omad in a larger number of participants and other groups of people (since this study only included slim, young adults). It will also be important that studies investigate the effects of Omad over time and conduct these trials in a real setting.
It will also be interesting to know if meal timing can further improve results and if the nutritional profile of the meal makes a difference.
If someone only eats one meal a day, they will find it quite difficult to get all of their nutritional needs, particularly energy, protein, fiber and key vitamins and minerals. Inadequate intake of these important nutrients can lead to loss of muscle mass, risk of constipation and poor gut health.
Someone who follows Omad needs to ensure they are getting a good serving of protein and plenty of vegetables, nuts, seeds, and some fruit and whole grains during their only daily meal to meet these nutritional needs. They’ll also need a good helping of dairy to ensure they’re meeting their calcium and iodine needs – or a supplement or alternative if they’re plant-based.
This is not a diet that we would recommend to children, pregnant women, expectant mothers, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and certainly not anyone at risk of an eating disorder.
It’s also important to note that while this diet might work for celebrities, they also have access to nutritionists, quality diets, and supplements if needed. For most of us, this type of diet could be unsustainable—and potentially harmful in the long run.