AgCenter nutritionist addresses intermittent fasting trend in new publication

Kyle Peveto
LSU AgCenter

 Intermittent fasting, a type of diet that relies on periods of fasting and feasting, has become more prevalent as proponents endorse the diet online, especially on social media.

LSU AgCenter nutrition specialist Elizabeth Gollub, a registered dietitian, and Daniela Quan, a graduate student in the LSU School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, noticed this trend receiving a great deal of attention and wrote an introductory guide to this pattern of eating.

Elizabeth Gollub.

The publication, “Intermittent Fasting Diet: A Few Basics,” is available online at bit.ly/IFdietAgCenter as a printable four-page guide.

“Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about intermittent fasting from neighbors, co-workers and the general public,” Gollub said. “People are trying or thinking about trying it, primarily as a means to lose a few pounds — that it might coincidently improve overall (metabolic) health is a bonus.”

Gollub said intermittent fasting is an umbrella term for eating patterns that alternate between “feasting and fasting.” These patterns usually involve consuming 500 calories or fewer, or 20% to 25% of your usual intake, on certain days.

Some who follow this kind of diet fast and feast on alternate days, while others fast for two nonconsecutive days each week. In another version, called time-restricted eating, a dieter consumes all his or her calories in a certain window of time each day and then fasts the rest of the day.

“Intermittent fasting is about when you eat, not what you eat.It does not involve calorie monitoring — just clock or calendar watching,” Gollub and Quan wrote in the guide.

This eating pattern has plenty of advantages. The diet can easily fit into most routines without disrupting family life, and research shows intermittent fasting is as effective for weight loss as standard diets.

Studies also show that intermittent fasting “improves glucose control, blood pressure and lipid profiles,” Gollub and Quan wrote.

However, adjusting to this eating pattern can be difficult for some. For the first two to three weeks, intermittent fasting can lead to dizziness, nausea, insomnia, headaches and other difficult symptoms.

Intermittent fasting is not recommended for children, pregnant or lactating women, shift workers, those with Type 1 diabetes or for people with other certain health conditions Gollub and Quan list in the guide.

While the benefits of intermittent fasting are clear for many, studies have not shown whether the diet is suitable as a lifelong way of eating, Gollub and Quan wrote.

These kinds of questions and concerns surrounding the diet convinced Gollub to write the introductory guide.

“As enthusiastic about intermittent fasting as the public seems to be, a lot of people just don’t really know how to get started,” Gollub said.

They may not know, she said, “what ‘fasting’ or ‘time restricted’ means in this context, which of these approaches — fasting or time restricted — is better, how it stacks up to other diets and if they can expect their successes to last.”