July 01, 2020

Is intermittent fasting a good option for loosing weight?

Q: I have several friends who are very enthusiastic about intermittent fasting and will stop eating entirely during certain times. I'm worried this is unsafe. Is this really a good diet option?

A: Mayo Clinic experts say there's simply not enough research to support or oppose intermittent fasting at this point. Intermittent fasting may be a helpful tool for some people, but it can also be unhealthy or even dangerous in certain cases.

Intermittent fasting is cutting off or seriously restricting calories for a certain amount of time. Popular variations include fasting every other day (alternate-day fasting), fasting two days a week (the 5:2 diet) or fasting for long periods of time every day (time-restricted fasting).

First, some potential benefits. Time restricted fasting — for example, not eating from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. — may be helpful for those who often find themselves mindlessly snacking at night. Intermittent fasting may also provide benefits such as lowering blood pressure and risk of heart disease, but these conclusions are often not based on large, long-term or human studies.

However, these fasting diets aren't for everyone. Any long-term weight management strategy needs to involve lifestyle changes you can sustain. Ask yourself if you realistically think you could make fasting a way of life. Intermittent fasting isn't advised for anyone who has experienced an eating disorder, has certain medical conditions such as diabetes requiring insulin or is prone to electrolyte problems. Older adults also should be careful, as there is a lack of research on fasting in this age group.

Consult with a health care provider before trying intermittent fasting. Mayo Clinic experts encourage routine follow-up appointments to ensure that your diet remains nutritionally sound and that your overall...