Intermittent fasting may lead to disordered eating, study finds

Intermittent fasting may lead to disordered eating, study finds

There are a fair amount of benefits to intermittent fasting (IF) – a diet in which you only eat for 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 aiming to improve their health through their diet, as one of those benefits includes weight loss. However, a new study has revealed that this dietary pattern can lead to dangerous side effects.

The new study, which was published in the journal Eating behaviors, included an analysis of data from the Canadian Adolescent Health Behavior Study. Taking into account information from more than 2,762 teens and young adults, results showed that over the course of a year, 38.4% of men, 47.7% of women, and 52% of transgender or non-conforming people gender had used intermittent fasting.

The study authors found that intermittent fasting was significantly associated with disordered eating behaviors. For women, this included binge eating and vomiting as well as compulsive exercise, while men tended to engage in the latter.

“Given our results, it is problematic to determine the prevalence of intermittent fasting in our sample,” said the 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, MScStudy co-author and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, added, “The associations found between intermittent fasting and disordered eating behaviors are particularly salient, given the increased significant incidence of eating disorders in adolescents and young adults since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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“The study shows an association that is already seen in practice,” Mary Curnutte, MS, RD, LDof the Louisville Center for Eating Disorders, says Eat this, not that! “Clients often start the practice of intermittent fasting to ‘be healthy’ because it’s something promoted as healthy. However, restricting our intake can lead to other extreme eating behaviors. Ignoring hunger can cause accumulation starvation, leading to overeating and binge eating. These behaviors can also trigger compensatory behaviors such as overworking or vomiting.”

“Additionally, people who are prone to restrictive eating disorders may find that restricting intermittent fasting will then trigger these restrictive cravings,” says Curnutte. “I’m glad to see a study that uses a large data set to show that these associations are significant, so that we can communicate to others that intermittent fasting is something to watch out for.”

Curnutte also notes that “those with a history of eating disorders should never intermittent fast under any circumstances.” Additionally, “those who think they have a delicate relationship with food should avoid this as well.”

For those interested in intermittent fasting, Curnutte says, “Our bodies naturally fast overnight. When you give yourself a food break overnight, our bodies will see these benefits of fasting. If someone decides they would like to intermittently fast for longer than our natural overnight fasting when we sleep, I encourage them to discuss this with a registered dietitian to make sure they don’t miss a key element that could harm their body.”

Desiree O

Desirée O is a freelance writer who covers, among other things, lifestyle, food and nutrition news. Learn more about Desiree

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