Intermittent fasting (IF) has quite a few benefits: a diet where you only eat within a limited amount of time (usually 8 hours) and fast for the remaining hours of the day. IF has become a popular option for those looking to improve their health through their diet, as weight loss is one of these benefits. However, a new study has found that this eating pattern can lead to dangerous side effects.
The new study, which was published in the journal eating behavior, included an analysis of data from the Canadian Study of Adolescent Health Behaviors. Taking into account information on more than 2,762 adolescents and young adults, the findings showed that over the course of a year, 38.4% of men, 47.7% of women, and 52% of transgender or nonconforming individuals used intermittent fasting.
Those behind the study found that intermittent fasting was significantly associated with disordered eating. For women, that included binge eating and vomiting, as well as compulsive exercise, while men tended to engage in the latter.
“Given our findings, it is problematic how widespread intermittent fasting was in our sample,” said lead author. Kyle T. Ganson, Ph.D., MSWassistant professor at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto, according to EurekAlert!
Jason M. Nagata, MD, MSca co-author of the study and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, added: “The associations found between intermittent fasting and eating disorder behaviors are particularly striking, given the significant increase in eating disorders among adolescents and young adults since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
RELATED: 10 Dangerous Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting, According to Experts
“The research shows a connection that we already see in practice”, Mary Curnutte, MS, RD, LDof the Louisville Center for Eating Disorders Eat this, not that! “Clients often start intermittent fasting to ‘be healthy’ as this is something that is promoted as healthy. However, restricting our intake can lead to other extreme eating behaviors. Ignoring hunger can cause hunger to develop, which results in overeating and binge eating. These behaviors can also trigger compensatory behaviors such as over-exercising or vomiting.”
“In addition, those prone to restrictive eating disorders may find that the restriction of intermittent fasting will trigger these restrictive tendencies,” says Curnutte. “I’m glad to see a study using a large dataset to show that these associations are significant so we can tell others that intermittent fasting is something to be careful about.”
Curnutte also notes that “people with a history of an eating disorder should not do intermittent fasting under any circumstances.” In addition, “those who feel they have an awkward relationship with food should also avoid it.”
For others interested in intermittent fasting, Curnutte says, “Our bodies naturally fast at night. If you allow yourself a nighttime food break, our body will see these benefits of fasting. If we fast naturally at night when we sleep, I encourage suggest they discuss it with a registered dietitian to make sure they are not missing an important component that could harm their body.