New Research: Intermittent Fasting Might Not Be As Safe as We Thought

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a popular dietary trend that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. It is believed to have various health benefits such as weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced inflammation.

The popular dietary trend has been linked to dangerous eating disorder attitudes and behaviors among adolescents and young adults.

A recent study published in the journal Eating Behaviors has shed light on the potential negative effects of intermittent fasting, a popular dietary trend in which people abstain from eating for more than 8 hours at a time. Although intermittent fasting is often promoted as a way to improve health and control or lose weight, few studies have examined its potential risks.

According to the study which analyzed data from over 2,700 adolescents and young adults in Canada, intermittent fasting was found to be linked to disordered eating behaviors in women, including binge eating and compensatory behaviors such as vomiting and compulsive exercise. Men who practiced intermittent fasting were also more likely to report compulsive exercise.

The prevalence of intermittent fasting behaviors among adolescents and young adults was notable. In total, 47% of women, 38% of men, and 52% of transgender or gender non-conforming individuals reported engaging in intermittent fasting in the past 12 months.

“Given our findings, it is problematic how prevalent intermittent fasting was in our sample,” says lead author Kyle T. Ganson, Ph.D., MSW, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

In all three groups, participants reported an average of 100 days where they engaged in intermittent fasting over the past 12 months.

“The associations found between intermittent fasting and eating disorder behaviors are particularly salient, given the significant increase in eating disorders among adolescents and young adults since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Jason M. Nagata, MD, MSc, assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and a study co-author.

The findings provide a warning to healthcare professionals about recommending intermittent fasting as a means of weight loss, as it may facilitate eating disorder attitudes and behaviors.

“We need more education in healthcare settings and greater awareness in popular culture, including social media, of the potential harms of intermittent fasting,” says Ganson. “At this point, the proposed benefits are still unclear and unsupported by research, and the potential harms are becoming clearer.”

Reference: “Intermittent fasting: Describing engagement and associations with eating disorder behaviors and psychopathology among Canadian adolescents and young adults” by Kyle T. Ganson, Kelly Cuccolo, Laura Hallward and Jason M. Nagatad, 4 November 2022, Eating Behaviors.
DOI: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2022.101681

14 Comments on "New Research: Intermittent Fasting Might Not Be As Safe as We Thought"

  1. Pamela McDermott | January 1, 2023 at 7:26 pm | Reply

    Intermittent fasting? Like not eating until one breaks their fast on the morning? If we don’t snack at night after dinner a n d then get 8 hours of sleep, we have fasted for maybe 10-12 hours!! If we can eat breakfast after being up for 3-4 hours we may have “intermittent fasted” even longer. Our digestive tract will love it!

  2. The title of this article is extremely misleading and even “sensational” in a tabloid sense. Just because there is an apparent association between intermittent fasting and some unsafe, even neurotic dieting behaviors doesn’t mean that one causes the other. For example, I’ll bet that 100% of heart attack victims drank a liquid beverage within 24 hours before their heart attacks. Why not publish “Drinking liquids is Unsafe”? ASSOCIATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSALITY!

  3. Yeah. Or maybe people who already struggle with “disordered eating” are more likely to try intermittent fasting, AND excessive training, AND 100 other things?

  4. I agree that the title and tone of this article are misleading. If going without food for 8 hours is now to be considered fasting, we should really change the name of our first meal of the day to…oh wait, it already is break-fast. Nothing to see here, at least not as presented.

  5. Ericka Parkman | January 2, 2023 at 5:45 am | Reply

    Long fasting periods is a good tool for those people who have diabetes, irritable bowel, problems losing weight for people over 30.

  6. Let’s pathologize people who are not like me

  7. Compulsive exercise? That’s a bad thing? What a joke!

  8. Obesity is an eating disorder! Jesus!

  9. Seems questionable as a study as 8 hrs is normal period between dinner and breakfast, not a fast; no data on control groups; retrospective or not? This type of poor science/medical reporting only confuses people.

  10. Eating 3-7 times a day is not working for most.

  11. Lol this title is a joke. Also You could literally fill in anything related to food or diet instead of intermittent fasting and it would be the same thing. In other words people are a danger to themselves in general. And because they are susceptible to getting f***ed over by money hungry companies putting extremely addictive and unhealthy compounds in our food and our goverments don’t give a s***. So everyone is developing disorders trying not to succumb to it.

  12. Intermittent fasting works for lots of people. It also naturally reduces the amount of money wasted in snacks and over-eating. So, unleash the researchers, bottom lines of food industry are at stake!

    BTW what is “compulsive exercise”? And, eight hours of not eating… is the bare minimum for health! You should avoid snacking two hours before going to bed and you should sleep at least seven hours, this is not controversial at all.

  13. Seems that in this day and age of excesses and convenience, asking someone to stop continually filling their cake hole after they’ve had dinner, and/or eating immediately after they wake up is asking too much.

  14. The overreaction of the commenters is certainly odd. This article is simply reporting the results of a peer-reviewed research study. There are a number of other studies already questioning the efficacy of intermittent fasting for long-term weight loss. Intermittent fasting may only be another of a long line of weight loss programs that become another fad that turns out not be particularly effective for most people.

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