Can intermittent fasting have an effect on hormones?

While intermittent fasting may be effective in weight loss, it may have adverse effects on women's reproductive hormones, according to a recent study.


According to a recent study published in the journal Obesity, this type of diet could reduce the production of hormones related to fertility in women. 

To carry out their research, the specialists from University of Illinois Chicago used a panel of women suffering from obesity, some of whom were menopausal. These volunteers followed an intermittent fasting method called the “warrior diet” for 8 weeks. The eating window was restricted to a period of four hours or six hours per day during which it was possible to consume food without counting calories. Once that period is up, the participants were to follow a “water fast,”, i.e., only consume water.

On the scales, the women following the diet experienced a weight loss of 3% to 4% compared to their weight at the beginning of the study. Participants in the control group lost almost no weight.   

ALSO SEE: Intermittent fasting, strict calorie intake- just how safe are these diets?

Throughout the study, the specialists measured the differences in hormone levels through blood tests and compared them to a control group, not following any diet. The specialists noticed a 14% decrease in dehydroepiandrosterone (or DHEA) in the women who followed the intermittent diet. This is a hormone often prescribed by fertility clinics for women needing to boost ovarian function. These levels did however remain within a normal range.

“The drop in DHEA levels in post-menopausal women could be concerning because menopause already causes a dramatic drop in estrogen, and DHEA is a primary component of estrogen,” outlined Krista Varady, professor in nutrition at UIC, who took part in the research, “However, a survey of the participants reported no negative side effects associated with low estrogen post-menopause, such as sexual dysfunction or skin changes.”

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