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A history of intermittent fasting is associated with an increase in disordered eating behaviors

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intermittent fasting

People who have participated in intermittent fasting in the past may be at increased risk of binge eating, according to new research published in the journal Appetite.

Binge eating is a serious condition that can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other health problems. Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, is a popular dietary trend that may provide health benefits such as weight loss and better blood sugar control.

However, research has yet to fully understand how these two behaviors interact and how different types of intermittent fasting can affect the risk of binge eating and other harmful behaviors.

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“I’m currently working on my doctorate in clinical psychology, and I’ve always been interested in learning more about the relationship between eating disorders and risk factors, such as dieting history or attempted diet restriction.

dietary intake” explained study author Jordan. Schueler, a graduate student at Texas A&M University.

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“At the time I came up with the idea for this study, which dates back to 2019, I had only heard of ‘intermittent fasting’, but didn’t know much about it.

Yet my mind went wild. immediately turned to what I knew from the research: restrictive eating or excessive dieting can lead to the development of eating disorders.

“I made an effort to find out more about it and see what research had already been done,” Schueler said.

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“I was incredibly surprised to find that there really wasn’t much about the psychological effects of intermittent fasting – only how it affected medical outcomes such as weight, cholesterol, etc.”

For their study, Schueler and his colleagues recruited a sample of 70 people who currently practiced intermittent fasting, 48 people who had practiced intermittent fasting before, and 182 people who had never practiced intermittent fasting. Participants were recruited from a pool of subjects from the psychology department.

The researchers asked the participants some basic questions about their eating habits.

Those currently practicing intermittent fasting were asked about their experience with different types of intermittent fasting (time-restricted fasting and alternate-day fasting) and their reasons for doing so. They were also asked how long they had been fasting.

Participants also completed the Short UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scale (which assesses five facets of impulsivity), the Intuitive Eating Scale 2 (which assesses the extent to which individuals rely on hunger or emotional cues to determine when to stop or start eating), the

Eating Disorder Diagnostic Scale for the DSM-5 (a diagnostic assessment of binge eating, anorexia, and purging behaviors), and the Behavior Scale for conscious food (which assesses the degree to which individuals eat while paying attention to their current thoughts and feelings).

Among participants who were currently practicing intermittent fasting, only 57.1% considered themselves to be currently on a diet and 87.1% were not following any specific dietary restrictions.

Most (58.7%) said they started intermittent fasting with the goal of losing weight or changing their body composition. A large majority (90%) said they were on a time-restricted fasting regimen.

Worryingly, compared to those who had never practiced intermittent fasting, people with a history of intermittent fasting tended to report greater participation in binge eating.

“The results of our study demonstrated that past engagement in intermittent fasting was associated with greater binge eating,” Schueler told PsyPost.

“Although binge eating by itself can make someone physically and emotionally uncomfortable, it is also linked to several medical and psychological conditions, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, substance abuse, or mood or anxiety disorders (Hudson et al., 2010; Kornstein et al., 2016).

“Furthermore, intermittent fasting was negatively related to intuitive eating or eating according to your internal signals of hunger or fullness, meaning that people who engaged (or had in the past) in intermittent fasting were less likely to eat according to their internal hunger cues or physiological needs (eg, stamina, energy).

As you might guess, eating not when hungry, but on a schedule, may cause appetite problems or lead to functional problems.

“However, more research needs to be conducted to fully understand how intermittent fasting is associated with harmful psychological effects, such as eating disorders, preoccupation with food, body image issues, depression, or depression. ‘anxiety,’ Schueler said.

Interestingly, there was no statistically significant difference in binge eating episodes between those currently fasting and those who had never fasted.

“While I was not surprised that past intermittent fasting could lead to increased binge eating, I was surprised that binge eating episodes were highest in this group compared to those currently fasting”, explained Schueler.

“However, after thinking about it a bit more, I think it makes sense. Long-term dieting or a history of dieting can often lead to overeating due to the pervasiveness of continuous thoughts and preoccupation with the food or its weight.

“And what happens when we constantly diet or limit our food intake? We are hungry! But instead of getting a little hungry, which most of us do on a regular basis, we have really hungry and can eat quickly, almost as if we are unable to control the amount of food we eat, and end up eating more than intended (eg, binge eating). Of course,

we had a smaller sample size for the group that had participated in intermittent fasting in the past (n=48), so more research is needed to confirm this finding.

Participants who currently practiced intermittent fasting scored higher on a measure of perseverance compared to those who had fasted in the past or who had never fasted. In other words, they tended to agree with statements like

“I usually make up my mind by reasoning carefully” and “I usually like to go all the way.” But no other significant differences in impulsivity emerged.

“Furthermore, I was surprised that there was no association between intermittent fasting and impulsivity,” Schueler told PsyPost. “Generally,

we have seen in the literature that people who binge eat also tend to be more impulsive. This makes sense given that binge eating can be viewed as an impulsive eating decision.

“In particular, research indicates that people who engage in binge eating or bulimic behaviors (eg, binge eating, purging, or vomiting, or compensating for binge eating through the use of diuretics or laxatives, excessive exercise, food restriction, etc.) impulsively in response to distress (also called “negative urgency” in research).

“So why haven’t we seen this with our individuals who were doing intermittent fasting and bulimia?” Schuler continued.

“Well, I don’t have much to offer at the moment. I think we need to dig deeper into this question to determine to what extent other factors (eg, the experience of “negative” emotions, such as sadness, anger, worry, etc.) may contribute. »

The study, like all research, comes with some caveats. For example, the lack of racial/ethnic diversity and the focus on undergraduate students may limit the generalizability of findings.

“In general, we need to ask these questions to more diverse groups of people,” Schueler explained. “Our study lacked racial/ethnic diversity and only included undergraduate students,

which means that the results of this research cannot necessarily be applied to people who have less than an undergraduate degree or some college experience.”

“Furthermore, we did not examine other important psychological variables such as depression, anxiety, emotional lability (rapid and, often, extreme mood swings), suicidality, etc. This is certainly a limitation of our study and should be investigated further in future research.”

The study, “Group Differences in Binge Eating, Impulsivity, and Intuitive and Mindful Eating in Intermittent Fasters and Nonfasters,” was authored by Jordan Schueler, Samantha R. Philip, Darya Vitus, Solangia Engler, and Sherecce A. Fields

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