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Downside of Intermittent Fasting

Published: 2022-11-10
Author: University of Toronto, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work | Contact: utoronto.ca
Peer-Reviewed Publication: Yes | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2022.101681
Additional References: Library of Eating Disorders Publications

Synopsis: A study finds intermittent fasting linked to all disordered eating behaviors for women, including binge eating, and compensatory behaviors like vomiting and compulsive exercise. The findings warn healthcare professionals about recommending intermittent fasting as a means of weight loss, as it may facilitate eating disorder attitudes and behaviors. In total, 47% of women, 38% of men, and 52% of transgender or gender non-conforming individuals reported intermittent fasting in the past 12 months.

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Definition

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is any meal timing schedule that cycles between voluntary fasting, reduced calorie intake, and non-fasting over a given period. Methods of intermittent fasting include alternate-day fasting, periodic fasting, and daily time-restricted feeding. The US National Institute on Aging states that there is insufficient evidence to recommend intermittent fasting and encourages speaking to one's healthcare provider about the benefits and risks before making significant changes to your eating pattern.

Main Digest

Intermittent fasting, described as fasting for greater than 8 hours at a time, is a dietary trend that continues to grow in popularity. While it is purported to positively affect one's long- and short-term health, and many use this behavior to control or lose weight, few have examined its potential harm. A new study published in the Eating Behaviors aimed to fill this research gap.

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Analyzing data from over 2,700 adolescents and young adults from the Canadian Study of Adolescent Health Behaviors, researchers found that intermittent fasting was linked to all disordered eating behaviors for women, including binge eating and compensatory behaviors like vomiting and compulsive exercise. Among men, those who engaged in intermittent fasting were more likely to report compulsive exercise.

The prevalence of intermittent fasting behaviors among adolescents and young adults was notable. In total, 47% of women, 38% of men, and 52% of transgender or gender non-conforming individuals reported engaging in intermittent fasting in the past 12 months.

"Given our findings, it is problematic how prevalent intermittent fasting was in our sample," says lead author Kyle T. Ganson, Ph.D., MSW, assistant professor at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

In all three groups, participants reported an average of 100 days where they engaged in intermittent fasting over the past 12 months.

"The associations found between intermittent fasting and eating disorder behaviors are particularly salient, given the significant increase in eating disorders among adolescents and young adults since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic," says Jason M. Nagata, MD, MSc, assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and a study co-author.

The findings provide a warning to healthcare professionals about recommending intermittent fasting as a means of weight loss, as it may facilitate eating disorder attitudes and behaviors.

"We need more education in healthcare settings and greater awareness in popular culture, including social media, of the potential harms of intermittent fasting," says Ganson. "At this point, the proposed benefits are still unclear and unsupported by research, and the potential harms are becoming clearer."

Reference Source(s):

Downside of Intermittent Fasting | University of Toronto, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (utoronto.ca). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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