Is intermittent fasting really good for you?
Written by Alicja
With a new year come New Year’s resolutions and a lot of people have the goal of losing weight. Many people decide to go on a diet, which can be simply a calorie deficit or cutting out certain food groups, like in the keto diet. But, aside from controlling, there is a diet that only cares about when you eat, and it’s called intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them. In this respect, it’s not a diet in the conventional sense but more accurately described as an eating pattern.
Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 16-hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week.
People are using it to lose weight, improve their health and simplify their lifestyles.
Intermittent fasting is more a lifestyle than a diet, which is why it may be more sustainable for people that want to lose weight but not give up foods that they like.
And with diets the best one will always be the most sustainable for you.
It also has other benefits, because some people do intermittent fasting for their health.
Image: "What is Intermittent Fasting?" Intermountain Healthcare
How was intermittent fasting even discovered?
As with many diets it was created for people that have medical issues.
According to Wikipedia it started as a treatment for obesity that had been investigated since at least 1915, with a renewed interest in the medical community in the 1960s after an "enthusiastic report". Intermittent fasts, or "short-term starvation periods", ranged from 1 to 14 days in these early studies. This enthusiasm reached more mainstream magazines, which prompted researchers and clinicians to caution about the use of intermittent fasts without medical monitoring.
Neuroscientist Mark Mattson, who has been studying intermittent fasting for 25 years, says that “Many things happen during intermittent fasting that can protect organs against chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age-related neurodegenerative disorders, even inflammatory bowel disease and many cancers.”
Also it can improve thinking and memory, heart health, blood pressure and physical performance.
It is undeniable that it has benefits for some people, however just like in many scenarios, what works for someone doesn’t mean it will work for another person. The main issue with studies on intermittent fasting is that it was mostly done on men. There is some evidence that intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial for some women as it is for men. One study showed that blood sugar control actually worsened in women after three weeks of intermittent fasting, which was not the case in men. There are also many anecdotal stories of women who have experienced changes to their menstrual cycles after starting intermittent fasting. Such shifts occur because female bodies are extremely sensitive to calorie restriction.
Each person’s body is different, but there are more negative side effects that come with intermittent fasting. One of them is digestive issues, which include constipation, diarrhea and bloating. The reduction of food intake negatively affects your digestion. And combined with dehydration which can happen during fasting can worsen those digestive issues.
Next side effects are mood changes and fatigue, caused by low blood sugar. Intermittent fasting can also disturb our sleep, which will cause tiredness.
If not done properly intermittent fasting can cause malnutrition. When you don't plan your fasting program and don’t eat nutrient dense foods or restrict your calories extremely you can experience malnutrition.
It’s also not recommended for individuals who once had or currently have an eating disorder. It’s also unsuitable for children, people with underlying health conditions, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
In summary, intermittent fasting was created for obese people that store excess amounts of energy in their body, but the diet was popularized by the general public. Some people may see the benefits, however it is not safe for everyone, especially women and children.
"Intermittent Fasting Guide: What It Is and How to Do It Safely." Healthline, Healthline Media, 18 Nov. 2021,
www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide#what-it-isWikipedia. "Intermittent Fasting." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 29 Jan. 2023,
en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermittent_fasting."Intermittent Fasting: What is it and How Does it Work." Hopkins Medicine, Hopkins Medicine, 2021,
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/intermittent-fasting-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work.Healthline, Intermittent Fasting for Women: What You Need to Know,
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-for-women#effects-on-women9 Pontential Intermitted Fasting Side Effects, Healthilne, 23 Ap. 2021
"What is Intermittent Fasting?" Intermountain Healthcare, intermountainhealthcare.org, January 2020, https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2020/01/what-is-intermittent-fasting/.