November 18, 2019
Intermittent fasting is one of the latest weight-loss movements to gain momentum, largely due to public figures and social media influencers who promote it. But does it really work?
There is little evidence to show this is an effective or safe way to lose weight. Most research finds intermittent fasting works no better than conventional diet plans.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is the practice of scheduling routine times for eating and fasting over the course of the day, or spreading these times over the week. Supporters tout its simplicity. Tracking calories or eating specific foods isn’t necessary. Simply eat as much as desired during the proper time, and the weight will come off. The theory is that the body will burn enough fat during periods of fasting for weight loss.;
Risks of Intermittent Fasting
It all sounds simple and logical, but there are risks to intermittent fasting. The primary dangers are hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and dehydration, both of which can occur during long periods of fasting. Other risks include nutritional deficiencies, tiredness, irritability, altered metabolism, and the general unproven nature of this behavior. Fasting could adversely affect ovulation and fertility in women and may lead to menstrual disorders.
Intermittent fasting is not recommended for:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Anyone with history of an eating disorder, or otherwise unhealthy relationship with food
- People with diabetes or who experience low blood sugar
- Women trying to conceive
- Children and the elderly
- Patients who have had bariatric surgery
Intermittent Fasting and Bariatric Surgery
Intermittent fasting is not recommended for patients who have had bariatric surgery—a recognized treatment for obesity—because the surgery already restricts dietary intake. Prolonged fasting increases the risk of hypoglycemia, dehydration, poor caloric intake, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and fainting. Surgical patients are instructed to eat small, frequent, protein-based meals at regular intervals. The goal is to develop sustained, life-long habits for the purpose of long-term healthy weight management.
Healthy Weight Management Basics
Taking the first steps and sticking to a plan, whatever the plan, are the most important parts of a sustainable healthy weight management strategy. Here are a few tips:
- Maintain a healthy diet, consisting of a variety of whole and fresh foods, with limited saturated fats, sugars, refined grains, and processed foods
- Adhere to portion control
- Do not snack between meals, to allow your body to burn fat
- Maintain an active lifestyle, including a combination of cardiovascular and muscle building activity
- Avoid snacking at night. Not eating between dinner and breakfast is a healthy period of fasting.
Finally, it can be said that the best diet is the one you can maintain. Talk to your health-care provider and work together to develop a plan that is best for you.