Scientists Debunk 4 Popular Myths About the Safety of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting Heart Health Diet

Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago have debunked four myths about intermittent fasting: it does not lead to a poor diet, cause eating disorders, result in excessive loss of lean muscle mass, or affect sex hormones. These conclusions, based on clinical studies, confirm the safety of both alternate-day eating and time-restricted eating methods.

Researchers debunk myths about intermittent fasting, confirming its safety and effectiveness in not altering diets, causing eating disorders, losing muscle mass, or affecting sex hormones through rigorous clinical studies.

In a recent article, researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago have debunked four common misconceptions regarding the safety of intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting has become an increasingly popular way to lose weight without counting calories. And a large body of research has shown it’s safe. Still, several myths about fasting have gained traction among clinicians, journalists and the general public: that fasting can lead to a poor diet or loss of lean muscle mass, cause eating disorders, or decrease sex hormones.

In a new commentary in Nature Reviews Endocrinology, UIC researchers debunk each of these. They base their conclusions on clinical studies, some of which they conducted and some done by others.

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

Types and Safety of Intermittent Fasting

There are two main types of intermittent fasting. With alternate-day eating, people alternate between days of eating a very small number of calories and days of eating what they want. With time-restricted eating, people eat what they want during a four- to 10-hour window each day, then don’t eat during the rest of the day. The researchers conclude both types are safe despite the popular myths.

Here’s a look at their conclusions:

Intermittent fasting does not lead to a poor diet: The researchers point to studies showing the intake of sugar, saturated fat, cholesterol, fiber, sodium, and caffeine do not change during fasting compared with before a fast. And the percentage of energy consumed in carbohydrates, protein, and fat doesn’t change, either.

Intermittent fasting does not cause eating disorders: None of the studies show that fasting caused participants to develop an eating disorder. However, all the studies screened out participants who had a history of eating disorders, and the researchers say that those with a history of eating disorders should not try intermittent fasting. They also urge pediatricians to be cautious when monitoring obese adolescents if they start fasting, because this group has a high risk of developing eating disorders.

Intermittent fasting does not cause excessive loss of lean muscle mass: The studies show that people lose the same amount of lean muscle mass whether they’re losing weight by fasting or with a different diet. In both cases, resistance training and increased protein intake can counteract the loss of lean muscle.

Intermittent fasting does not affect sex hormones: Despite concerns about fertility and libido, neither estrogen, testosterone nor other related hormones are affected by fasting, the researchers said.

Reference: “Debunking the myths of intermittent fasting” by Krista A. Varady, Shuhao Lin, Vanessa M. Oddo and Sofia Cienfuegos, 19 June 2024, Nature Reviews Endocrinology.
DOI: 10.1038/s41574-024-01009-4

3 Comments on "Scientists Debunk 4 Popular Myths About the Safety of Intermittent Fasting"

  1. Charles G. Shaver | July 9, 2024 at 3:05 am | Reply

    By 1935 then renowned American immunologist Dr. Arthur F. Coca (The Pulse Test, 1956) identified, studied and reported on a kind of very, very mild food allergy reaction that mainstream medicine still fails to recognize, research, practice and or teach today. Mostly to proteinaceous food substances, intermittent fasting can allow the body sufficient time to recover from practically harmless individual medically undiagnosed allergy reactions turned chronic and deadly-dangerous long-term (months to decades, highly individual) and get a delayed, fresh start, immune system reaction (e.g., mild inflammation, minimally).

  2. FrequentFlyer | July 9, 2024 at 6:36 am | Reply

    Any “scientist or clinician” trying to tell you fasting is unhealthy is ignorant or influenced by who/what ever is funding them.

    Thousands of years of human history is all the proof you need.

  3. I have had really good luck. I am used to it, and am a program of 18/6, but usually go over 20 hours . Dropped 17 pounds , and trying to get down to 155 from 179. It really works well, and I feel better.

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