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Intermittent Fasting May Lead To Eating Disorders In Young People And Adolescents: Study

Intermittent fasting is all the rage today as people follow this method to gain health benefits. But a new study suggests that there may be possible negative consequences of fasting intermittently.

The study, published in the journal Eating Behaviors, found intermittent fasting in adolescents and younger population can lead to behaviors and psychopathology of eating disorders and other dangerous behaviors.

There are different ways of intermittent fasting. One is to fast on two non-consecutive days of the week. Another is to fast for certain periods of time. An example of this type of intermittent fasting is the 16/8 method, which involves fasting for 16 hours and eating only in an 8-hour window.

“With proper guidance from a registered dietitian, a client can be guided into choosing well-balanced foods within the method of 16:8; I like this method because it’s basically eating three meals within a workday. A chronic dieter may skip meals or avoid many good foods,” Blanca Garcia, RDN, a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition specialist with the Measurement Instrument Database for Social Sciences (MIDSS), not involved in the study, told Medical News Today.

Some evidence suggests intermittent fasting aids in weight loss. But the technique has its pitfalls.

The researchers found a relationship between intermittent fasting and eating disorders among adolescents and young adults.

For the study, researchers used data from the Canadian Study of Adolescent Health Behaviors. The study included 2,762 adolescents and young adults, including women, men, and transgender or gender non-conforming individuals, according to the outlet.

“IF [Intermittent fasting] was highly common among the sample, including 48% of women, 38% of men, and 52% of transgender/gender non-conforming participants, and participants fasted for, on average, 100 days in the past 12 months,” Study author Kyle T. Ganson, assistant professor and Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work with the University of Toronto, Canada, said, the outlet reported.

The participants were asked to answer questionnaires aimed at analyzing behaviors and psychopathology associated with eating disorders. The questionnaire focused on aspects such as participants’ dietary restraints and any concerns they had about weight, shape, and eating. Also, eating disorder behaviors, like binge eating, compulsive exercise, and laxative use were noted in participants.

“Among all groups (men, women, and transgender individuals), any engagement in IF in the past 12 months was associated with greater eating disorder attitudes and behaviors,” Ganson explained.

“Additionally, among women, in particular, IF was associated with all eating disorder behaviors, including binge eating, vomiting, laxative use, and compulsive exercise, while among men, IF was associated with compulsive exercising,” Ganson added.

This study foreshadows, “IF may be problematic and associated with severe and harmful eating disorder attitudes and behaviors,” Ganson said, and added that “healthcare professionals need to be aware of these potentially correlated behaviors, as well as understand contemporary dietary trends like IF that are commonly discussed among young people, particularly on social media.”

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