Intermittent fasting is becoming a very popular eating style. It is commonly used as a strategy for weight loss or thought of to improve overall health. Intermittent fasting varies between individuals. It may consist of a set time of day when the individual can eat, or specific days of the week where only 1-2 meals are eaten. It may be based on personal preference, convenience, or influence from something the individual read or heard.
There is research available on intermittent fasting and its potential consequences. A recent study published by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics studied outcomes based on skipping meals, meal frequency and risk of mortality through all causes and/or cardiovascular diseases (CVD). It was a prospective study where researchers followed and observed a group of subjects over a period of time and gathered information to determine results.
Interestingly, here is what they found:
Those eating only one meal per day was associated with an increased risk of all-cause and CVD mortality.
Skipping breakfast was associated with an increased risk of CVD mortality.
Skipping lunch or dinner is associated with risk of all-cause mortality.
Meal intervals of 3 meals per day ?4.5 hours apart were associated with higher all-cause mortality.
This would suggest caution should be used when engaging in intermittent fasting. More research needs to be done to solidify these results and to dig a little deeper into specifics for each outcome. However, moderation seems to be a common theme when accessing long-term efficacy of popular diets such as this. A good rule of thumb is to be cautious when diet guidelines are strict and/or limiting.
As a dietitian, I have my own views on eating patterns. Food and meal preferences are specific to each individual. Studies such as this support my own notion that intermittent fasting may not be the best solution for everyone. Some things that may influence eating frequency would include the availability to food and certain health conditions. Intermittent fasting may also be a part of a person’s culture or religious beliefs and should be taken into consideration.
Here are some things to think about when choosing your personal eating routine.
For someone with diabetes, fasting can cause irregular blood glucose patterns during the fast and then blood sugar spikes when it ends. Blood glucose tends to be easier to manage with moderate meals and snacks spaced out evenly throughout the day such as every 4 hours. This helps with insulin management and reduces the common habit of mindless eating. Often times fasting results in overconsumption of food at the end of the fast resulting in increased caloric intake. This defeats the purpose of fasting for weight loss.
My advice is to listen to your body. Look at food as fuel and enjoy moderate eating throughout the day. If you feel you want to fast intermittently, seek professional help so you can do so safely. A Registered Dietitian or Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist can help you come up with an eating plan that is right for you.
SaRene Brooks is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist whose focus is lifestyle intervention. She earned a bachelor of science degree in dietetics from Utah State University.
SaRene’s professional experience includes receiving accreditation for and directing a complete Diabetes Self-Management Education program. She also spent many years leading a lifestyle change program for weight management and chronic disease prevention. She thrives on providing the kind of care and education that empowers people to reach their personal health goals.