Researchers Debunk Myths About Intermittent Fasting

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Intermittent fasting has gained popularity as an effective weight loss strategy, yet several myths about its safety persist. Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) address these misconceptions in a new commentary published in Nature Reviews Endocrinology, providing evidence-based reassurances for integrative practitioners and their patients.

“I’ve been studying intermittent fasting for 20 years, and I’m constantly asked if the diets are safe,” said Krista Varady, PhD, a professor in UIC’s Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition. “There is a lot of misinformation out there. However, those ideas are not based on science; they’re just based on personal opinion.”

According to the article, intermittent fasting typically follows one of two patterns: alternate-day fasting, which involves eating a very low-calorie diet on some days and freely on others, and time-restricted eating, which involves eating within a specific window of time. There are many misconceptions concerning intermittent fasting. In the commentary, Dr. Varady and her colleagues attempt to debunk several of the controversies surrounding intermittent fasting with in-depth research. They concluded that the following statements were unfounded:

Intermittent Fasting Leads to a Poor Diet

Contrary to the myth that fasting results in poor dietary choices, the researchers found no significant changes in the intake of sugar, saturated fat, cholesterol, fiber, sodium, or caffeine during fasting compared to before. The proportion of calories consumed from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats also remained consistent.

Intermittent Fasting Causes Eating Disorders

The researchers found no evidence linking intermittent fasting to the development of eating disorders. However, individuals with a history of eating disorders were excluded from these studies, and the researchers cautioned against fasting for this group. They also advise pediatricians to monitor obese adolescents carefully if they choose to fast due to their higher risk of eating disorders.

Intermittent Fasting Causes Excessive Loss of Lean Muscle Mass

The research indicated that weight loss through intermittent fasting does not result in more lean muscle mass loss than other dieting methods. Both resistance training and increased protein intake are recommended to mitigate muscle loss regardless of the dieting strategy.

Intermittent Fasting Affects Sex Hormones

The article said that claims about the negative effects of intermittent fasting on sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, are unfounded. The researchers found no evidence that fasting affects these hormones or related aspects like fertility and libido.