Intermittent fasting has gained immense popularity over the past few years. From making people shed those extra kilos to controlling their insulin levels, the diet has benefited people in various ways.
However, on the other side of the spectrum, there are a bunch of negative side effects one experiences if they follow this diet. Before we move on further, let’s discuss what exactly is Intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. The diet doesn’t specify the food that you should eat, but rather when you should eat.
That is why the process can not exactly be called a diet but an eating pattern. People follow intermittent fasting in cycles of different duration but the most common ones involve 16-hour fasting daily or 24-hour fasting, twice a week.
Experts say, fasting from time to time is a more natural pattern of eating than eating 3-4 meals a day.
This is popular because in the ancient times when people used to hunt and gather food, sometimes they went without eating for days as they couldn’t hunt anything. Thus, this automatically makes fasting more natural.
Common Intermittent fasting methods
There are various ways people do intermittent fasting, which involves splitting the day or week into fasting and eating periods. During the fasting periods, one has to eat very little or not at all. The most popular methods are:
The 16/8 method: Also known as the Leangains protocol, the method involves skipping breakfast and restricting the eating period to 8 hours. For example, eating from 1 to 9 pm, followed by fasting for 16 hours.
Eat-stop-eat: This method involves fasting for 24 hours, one-two times a week. For example not eating lunch one day until you next eat lunch the day after.
The 5:2 diet: In this method, one has to consume 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week but can eat normally on the other 5 days of the week.
All these methods lead to weight loss until you don’t compensate by eating too much during the eating periods. Most people find the 16/8 method the simplest and most sustainable.
Side effects of following Intermittent fasting
Following this extreme diet can lead to some extreme side effects.
We talked to two leading nutritionists to know about the worst possible side effects of this eating pattern.
Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief clinical Dietician, Apollo hospitals group, Bangalore says, “Intermittent fasting has gained a lot of popularity of late, it leads to weight loss if followed diligently with the right instructions and exercise.”
“But a recent study showed that close to 150 healthy adults lost muscle mass after they followed the diet, which is not a desirable outcome. So, it’s essential that if one follows intermittent fasting, they should eat a mix of complex carbs, high fibre, proteins and healthy fats. They should also follow a good exercise regime in order to prevent loss of muscle mass and maintain their BMR.”
She added, not just this, “the other side effects of Intermittent fasting include headache, irritability, fluctuations in blood pressure and blood sugar. It can also lead to lack of sleep, which must be discussed with a healthcare professional.”
Dr. Mansi Chatrath, Holistic Health Consultant, Natural Health Care Clinic says, “Multiple studies over a period of time have shown that while following intermittent fasting, the bodyweight may decrease but the fat tissues in the abdomen may actually increase.”
“Additionally, the cells in the pancreas responsible for releasing insulin were damaged and the number of free radicals also increased in individuals who followed the diet. In fact, markers of insulin resistance were also detected.”
“Several studies have proved that intermittent dieting can lead to targeted weight loss but it also damages the pancreas and affects the insulin function. The diet can also cause hormonal fluctuation in women. Gynaecologists over the world recommend women who are trying to conceive, to not follow the diet. ”
“The diet does not only lead to diabetes and hormonal imbalance but several serious health issues too.”