A history of intermittent fasting is associated with increased disordered eating behaviors

A history of intermittent fasting is associated with increased disordered eating behaviors

People who have engaged 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 disorder 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 offer 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 may affect the risk of binge eating and other harmful behaviors.

“I am currently working on my doctorate in Clinical Psychology, and have always been interested in learning more about the relationship between eating disorders and risk factors, such as a history of dieting or trying to restrict food intake,” explained the author of the study. Study, Jordan. Schueler, a graduate student at Texas A&M University.

“At the time the idea for this study came to me, which was in 2019, I had only heard of ‘intermittent fasting,’ but didn’t know much about it. Even so, my mind immediately went 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 learn more about the topic and see what research had already been done,” Schueler said. “I was very surprised to find that there really wasn’t much about the psychological effects of intermittent fasting, just how it affected medical outcomes like weight, cholesterol, etc.”

For their study, Schueler and his colleagues recruited a sample of 70 people who were currently practicing intermittent fasting, 48 people who had previously done intermittent fasting, and 182 people who had never done intermittent fasting. Participants were recruited through 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 more questions 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 fasted.

Participants also completed the UPPS-P Brief Impulsive Behavior Scale (which assesses five facets of impulsivity), Intuitive Eating Scale 2 (which assesses the extent to which people rely on hunger or emotional cues to determine when to stop eating or starting to eat), the Eating Disorders Diagnostic Scale for DSM-5 (a diagnostic assessment of binge eating, anorexia, and purging behaviors), and the Conscious Eating Behavior Scale (which assesses the degree to which people eat while paying attention to their present thoughts and sensations).

Of the participants currently practicing intermittent fasting, only 57.1% considered themselves to be dieting and 87.1% did not follow specific dietary restrictions. The majority (58.7%) reported that they had started intermittent fasting in an effort to lose weight or change their body composition. A large majority (90%) indicated that they were following a time-limited fasting regimen.

Worryingly, compared to those who had never intermittent fasted, individuals with a prior history of intermittent fasting tended to report greater binge engagement.

“The results of our study demonstrated that earlier participation in intermittent fasting was associated with greater amounts of binge eating,” Schueler told PsyPost. “While binge eating alone can make someone physically and emotionally uncomfortable, it is also linked to various medical and psychological problems, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, substance abuse or mood disorders or of anxiety (Hudson et al., 2010; Kornstein et al., 2016).”

“Furthermore, intermittent fasting was negatively related to intuitive eating, or eating according to internal cues for hunger or satiety, meaning that people who participated (or had participated in the past) in intermittent fasting had less probabilities of eating according to their internal state. hunger cues or your physiological needs (eg, stamina, energy). As you might guess, eating not when you are hungry, but on a schedule, can cause some problems with your appetite or lead to some functional problems.”

“However, more research is needed to fully understand how intermittent fasting is associated with harmful psychological effects, such as disordered eating, preoccupation with food, body image concerns, depression or anxiety,” Schueler said.

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

“While I was not surprised that prior intermittent fasting could lead to increased binge eating, I was surprised that bingeing episodes were higher in this group compared to those currently fasting,” Schueler explained. “However, upon further reflection, I think it makes sense. Long-term dieting or a history of dieting can often lead to overeating due to the pervasiveness of ongoing thoughts and concerns about food or weight.”

“And what happens when we constantly diet or limit our food intake? It makes us 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 can’t control how much we eat, and we end up eating more than planned (eg, binge). Of course, we had a smaller sample size for the group that had engaged in intermittent fasting in the past (n=48), so more research is needed to confirm this finding.”

Participants who were currently practicing intermittent fasting scored higher on a measure of persistence compared to those who had fasted in the past or who had never fasted. In other words, they tended to agree with statements such as “I usually make up my mind through careful reasoning” and “I usually like to see things through to the end.” But no other significant differences in impulsivity emerged.

“In addition, 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 overeat tend to be more impulsive as well. This makes sense since binge eating can be seen as an impulsive decision to eat.”

“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 by using diuretics or laxatives, excessive exercise, food restriction, etc.) .) tend to. impulsively as a reaction to distress (also called “negative urgency” in research)”.

“So why didn’t we see this with our intermittent fasting and binge eating individuals?” Schueler continued. “Well, I don’t have much to offer right now. I think we need to look at this further to determine to what extent other factors (eg, experiencing “negative” emotions, such as sadness, anger, worry, etc.) may be contributing to this.”

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

“In general, we need to ask these questions among more diverse groups of people,” Schueler explained. “Our study lacked racial/ethnic diversity, and only focused on college students, which means that the results of this research may not necessarily apply to people who have less than a college degree or some college experience.”

“In addition, we did not observe other important psychological variables such as depression, anxiety, emotional lability (rapid and often extreme mood swings), suicidal tendencies, etc. That is definitely a limitation of our study and should be further investigated in future research.”

The study, “Group differences in binge eating, impulsivity, and intuitive and mindful eating between intermittent fasters and non-fasters“, was written by Jordan Schueler, Samantha R. Philip, Darya Vitus, Solangia Engler and Sherecce A. Fields

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