The Potential Physical and Mental Effects of Intermittent Fasting and Calorie Restriction

Understanding Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a kind of diet followed by setting alternate periods of fasting and eating. The method widely followed is an 8-10 hour eating window throughout the day and fasting for the remaining 16-14 hours.  As a dietary method, Intermittent Fasting does not follow any specific diet or set of foods to eat. Rather it simply focuses on the time when we can eat. The essential concept of intermittent fasting is an overall reduction in a person’s daily calorie intake without having to restrict specific foods or follow a rigorous diet. It simply entails eating in strategic time windows. This, in turn, leads to weight loss accompanied by other health benefits.

Intermittent Fasting vs. Caloric Restriction

Both approaches to diet stem from different schools of thought. When followed in a mindful and limited way, both the approaches of Intermittent Fasting and Calorie Restriction work well. Calorie restriction works better when we swap unhealthy, processed, or fast food options for healthier and natural foods that keep us fuller for longer. This applies to Intermittent Fasting as well. Problems arise when we become too invested in our appearances and become susceptible to eating disorders or an unhealthy body image.  Factors to consider before following any kind of diet include a diagnosis of any underlying health conditions, or sensitivities, and for special scenarios such as pregnancy or chronic disease.

Is there a definite relationship between Intermittent Fasting and Eating Disorders?

Over the years, various studies have been conducted to study the health effects of Intermittent Fasting. One research found that women happened to show the most association between Intermittent Fasting and eating disorders. Another research found that those who fasted intermittently found an improvement in overall metabolic levels, stabilized mood-related fluctuation, and relieved dietary symptoms. Intermittent Fasting did not promote any negative implications or disordered habits of eating among normal adults. Another study found a very high risk of binge eating or cravings if low carbohydrate diets and Intermittent Fasting were combined. One research pointed out that caloric restriction as well as Intermittent Fasting, following either showed a reduction in weight or appearance-related anxiety. Intermittent Fasting showcased a greater level of reduction in such kind of anxiety. We can safely say that the overall results of Intermittent Fasting have been mixed. It would be useful to note here that short-term research trials may not end up reflecting the long-term effects of the trial. Also, it was largely found that young women are more sensitive to the potential negative effects of Intermittent Fasting. Many medical recommendations suggest that individuals who have a history of disordered eating habits in the past should avoid Intermittent Fasting or only do so under the guidance of nutritionists. 

What are the Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Mental Health?

  Various experiments have been carried out to analyse the overall effects of Intermittent Fasting on Mental Health. A small study that took place in 2018 observed that women who fasted for 72 hours faced elevated levels of sadness with a lowering of decision-making abilities. On the other hand, another integrative study in 2021 observed that fasting offered various neurobiological benefits to the brain that could potentially lower depressive symptoms. A fairly bigger and more recent study conducted in 2022 found that individuals who fasted frequently showed a definite decrease in symptoms of depression.

Are there any potential advantages of Intermittent fasting?

  Some potential benefits of Intermittent Fasting include:
  • Balanced Fat Loss
  • Comparatively Better Digestion
  • Improvement in Glucose Tolerance
  • Enhanced Internal Cellular Repair
  • Lowering of Inflammation levels
  • Enhancement in Mental Clarity
  • Better Cardiovascular Health
  Are there any risks of Intermittent Fasting?   As per multiple research trials, there are a few significant risks associated with fasting that we should be aware of such as:
  • Lack of nutritional Intake
  • Increased susceptibility to disordered eating habits
  • An upward shift in stress and fatigue levels
  • Issues with digestion
  • Potential hormonal imbalances
  • Chance of overconsumption in dedicated eating windows
  Despite the mixed results and Pros and Cons, Fasting has been a part of many ancient cultures worldwide. It is used as a form of natural defence and detox mechanism. Some other factors that determine the fasting results include a religious or even spiritual association to the fast, the willpower of the individual fasting, and the kind of experience they had during any prior fasting activity.    Intermittent fasting on the other hand is not advisable for pregnant, lactating women as well as people who suffer from mental disorders and health conditions as it seems to worsen the already present conditions. Overall, it has been found that the effects of Intermittent Fasting vary from person to person and body to body with mindset playing an important role in the overall results of the fast.

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