by Tayla Hirsch

Across the globe, we have the ongoing strain of the obesity epidemic on public health outcomes, and hence we have seen an increasing focus and interest in innovative therapies to counter this epidemic, such as through dietary pattern regimens. Intermittent fasting is a topic of interest as of late and it’s important to discuss its evidenced potential benefits on weight management and cardiovascular disease, as well as its associated health risks.

Intermittent fasting is not a quick fix, and the beneficial effects of it depend on each individual’s circumstance. Eating well, exercising and rest are some of the most important pillars of health and wellbeing, all which can be incorporated into your daily life without the need for fad diets or quick fixes.

What Is It?

Intermittent fasting refers to eating patterns that follow regular voluntary periods or windows, typically of at least 14-hours, with no caloric intake interspersed with unrestricted caloric consumption. Put simply, it’s a tool used to control and reduce caloric intake by undertaking periodic breaks from eating.

How Is It Used?

Intermittent fasting has been utilised for centuries, in both traditional and conventional ways.  As one of the most ancient traditions in the world, it has been practiced among various communities for either cultural or religious reasons. When undertaken with care, evidence supports a correlation between intermittent fasting and a reduction in body fat and inflammation and improved glucose metabolism, cognitive function and biomarkers of disease in obese individuals. It can be considered an option for individuals who hold patterns of unhealthy weight gain following standard eating patterns. It’s important to consider that each individual will respond differently, and this style of caloric consumption might work well for some but not for others. An individualised approach should be taken to any type of dietary tool, as a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t realistic or suitable.

Is It Safe?

Despite evidenced benefits, it’s important to consider potential side effects that may present. Reported symptoms have included headache, mood swings, palpitations, fever, flu, low blood sugar, lethargy, constipation, dizziness, vomiting, dehydration and bloating. Fasting may also lead to an increase in cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, which can affect our hunger hormones and intensify cravings. As a result, overeating and binge eating may occur.  

Intermittent fasting should be undertaken with care, understanding and consideration. Those that are seeking advice on whether or not it would be appropriate to intermittent fast and how to go about it would benefit from seeking guidance from a health practitioner.

This approach of dietary intake should be avoided in those who are underweight, struggling with weight gain, pregnant or breastfeeding, and engaging in high levels of physical exertion. Additionally, people who are at a developmental age, including those under 18 years of age, should not attempt intermittent fasting as sufficient calories are required for proper development.


Whilst intermittent fasting may be a beneficial long-life commitment for some, it may only be appropriate or achievable to undertake temporarily for others, viewing it as a therapeutic tool and not necessarily as a life-long commitment. Traditionally, many cultures emphasize the importance of regular meal times, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, as the consumption of meals at irregular patterns can cause disruption of the body’s balance.

Disclaimer. The above is not intended for use as health advice, but is a brief discussion of considerations that should be taken if practicing intermittent fasting. Please seek advice from a health care practitioner if you wish to undertake this or similar practices.  

For more information on Nutrition, book a consult with our Clinical Nutritionist, Tayla here.