Intermittent Fasting or, as I like to call it, repeated short-term starvation, has become all the rage. And while its evangelists would have you believe that it can help everything from inflammation to swimmer’s ear, there are some very real dangers.
It can cause problems for people who are dealing with blood sugar issues, and people who are pregnant. It can lead to decreased alertness, pancreatic damage, and increased cortisol levels and can cause us to develop unhealthy relationships with food and our bodies.
In an excellent piece from Bustle, Nutritional therapist Emily Fonnesbeck, RD pointed out:
Restricting your eating to only certain times during the day ignores your body’s needs, leaves you undernourished, and could cause the pendulum to swing to the other extreme once you do have permission to eat. This type of dysregulated, haphazard and chaotic eating pattern negatively impacts hormone balance, immunity, digestion, and sleep patterns. While intermittent fasting may appear healthy, it has the very real potential to make you unwell.
I don’t think it even appears healthy, but I understand how a world rife with fatphobia and the associated disordered eating would lead people to advocate for starvation.
As always, I want to be clear that people are allowed to do whatever they want with their own bodies. But it does not follow that I have to let them pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.
Looking through the research that supposedly “supports” intermittent fasting, you’ll find short-term studies, huge drop-out rates, focus on short-term individual numbers rather than overall and/or longterm health outcomes, and a looooot of animal studies.
Reader Jane Lincoln pointed out this study that illustrates many of the issues at once. It compared three groups – fasting, caloric restriction, and a control group. 38% of the people in the fasting group dropped out. Those who were in the fasting group struggled to eat the amounts prescribed. Compared to a calorie restriction group and a control group there were “no significant differences between the intervention groups in blood pressure, heart rate, triglycerides, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, insulin resistance, C-reactive protein, or homocysteine concentrations at month 6 or 12.” The only significant difference was increased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the fasting group.
The study concluded, “Alternate-day fasting did not produce superior adherence, weight loss, weight maintenance, or cardioprotection vs daily calorie restriction.”
And since we know that the long-term result of almost every attempt at weight loss through caloric restriction is total weight regain, with many gaining back more than they lost, I think the actual conclusion is that intermittent fasting is just more risk with no benefit. Y’all, if it walks like a fad diet, talks like a fad diet, and harms people’s relationships with food and their bodies like a fad diet – it’s a fad diet.
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