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Intermittent Fasting and Menopause: Does it Help with Weight Loss?

In recent years there has been more talk about intermittent fasting as a weight loss tool. But, what role does intermittent fasting and menopause play in weight loss for females during this period of their life.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a diet involving periods of fasting and eating, for different periods of time. Some types of IF diets include:

  • 5:2 diet. Eating normally for 5 days per week and restricting calories to a quarter of your daily need on the remaining 2 days
  • 16:8 die. A fasting period of 16 hours per day and an 8-hour eating window. There may be some variation in time periods
  • Alternate day fasting – fasting every other day
  • Eat Stop Eat – a 24-hour fast once or twice a week

IF is primarily promoted as a weight loss diet. It works on the basis that when the body is in a fasted state it will use glucose, stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver for energy first. When glycogen stores become depleted, fat stores in the body will be used instead. This diet also puts you in an overall calorie deficit to further aid weight loss [1]. 

Benefits of intermittent fasting and menopause

Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of IF as a weight loss method. One study showed that in 27 trials, weight loss of 0.8%–13% of baseline weight was observed, in obese and overweight participants [2]. Furthermore, research into the effects of sex and menopausal status of the weight loss efficacy of alternate day fasting found no significant differences between premenopausal women, postmenopausal women, and men [3].

This study also found that fat mass, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), fasting insulin, insulin resistance, and blood pressure decreased in both pre- and postmenopausal women. Suggesting that there are metabolic benefits of alternate day fasting, as well as weight loss [3]. 

Risks of intermittent fasting and menopause

Although intermittent fasting is relatively safe. There can be a number of consequences including:

  • hunger
  • headaches
  • feeling faint
  • constipation
  • low energy
  • irritability
  • sleep disturbances

There is also issues with people over-consuming on non-restricted days, leading to only minimal or no overall weight loss [4].

Additionally, a study comparing IF and calorie restriction, a common weight loss technique, found that although mean weight loss was not significantly different between these methods, there was a higher dropout rate in the IF group. This is a disadvantage of IF as it is often an unsustainable method of weight loss, meaning that people often use it as a fad diet and regain the weight lost after stopping it [5]. 

Summary

IF may be an effective method of weight loss for some people, but it is important to be aware of the un-sustainability of the diet. There is limited research on popular methods of IF, including the 5:2 and 16:8 diet. Therefore any potential risks of these diets not have been identified yet. Decreasing your overall energy intake, and following a healthy, balanced diet, can see similar weight loss and metabolic effects as IF, with a decreased risk of dropout [5]. 

You can visit our blog “Nutrition and the Menopause” for more information about following a healthy, balanced diet, or try our 1:1 services for more personalised advice, email me for further information. 

Caroline Hill Dietitian
Caroline Hill Dietitian and owner of Caroline Hill Nutrition

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