Intermittent fasting is a trendy health fad with several advantages, including weight reduction, enhanced mental clarity, and higher energy levels. While intermittent fasting is usually regarded as safe for healthy adults, there are some things to think about before starting this eating plan for children.
While there is no conclusive answer on whether children should practice intermittent fasting, the general agreement is that children should not limit their food intake in any manner. Growing bodies need a consistent supply of nutrients, which intermittent fasting may disrupt.
Fasting, for example, is a physical and spiritual discipline important to the Islamic religion. Fasting is commonly practiced during the month of Ramadan when Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise until dark. As a result, it is intermittent fasting, although it is only practiced for one month every year. Children under the age of 14 are not obliged to fast, although there is no legislation requiring them to do so. Many people opt to partake in this activity as a method of preparing for maturity in this scenario (1). However, the National Health Service in the United Kingdom warns that fasting is not safe for children under the age of eight (2). Ramadan traditionally begins in the final week of April and lasts for a month. Given that the fast is broken at sunset, which is about 8.45 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. (in the UK) at that time of year, it is reasonable to assume that most youngsters would be in bed by that time (3).
We have determined that fasting is not advisable for pre-pubescent children. Girls, in particular, begin to have periods when they reach puberty. While the odd day of intermittent fasting has little effect on the menstrual cycle, excessive calorie restriction may interrupt and even cause periods to halt (4). While many females may embrace this, it is not ideal since it might have an impact on fertility. However, many adolescent girls and women experience discomfort, cramps, headaches, mood changes, and sadness before and during their period. It has been discovered that intermittent fasting may help alleviate these symptoms (5). With so much contradicting advice, it’s usually advisable to see a doctor. However, if intermittent fasting relieves the unpleasant symptoms of menstruation and the kid consumes lots of good, nutritional food, the doctor may think it is preferable to medicine.
Another factor to consider is that children under the age of fourteen are fast-growing and developing. Most youngsters are always on the go, playing, running, and exploring their surroundings. They need a wide variety of healthful meals and nutrients to thrive and develop. However, they also need an appropriate supply of that food (6). When done appropriately, intermittent fasting may contain adequate food. However, since the amount of time you have to eat is limited, the youngster may consume less food. This might have a negative impact on their growth and development. Furthermore, fasting may impair physical performance in youngsters, causing them to run slower, leap lower, and have less energy overall while exercising (7).
Unfortunately, slightly under 20% of children between the ages of two and nineteen globally are fat. During the Covid epidemic, this percentage increased to a little over 22%. (8). Intermittent fasting has been demonstrated to be an effective approach for youngsters to lose weight (9). However, its safety has not been established. For youngsters who want to lose weight via intermittent fasting, it is important to err on the side of caution and obtain competent medical guidance (10).
Women of childbearing age have special dietary requirements whether pregnant or lactating. Aside from the increased caloric requirements of pregnancy, pregnant women must also maintain a greater level of blood sugar to support the growing baby (11). Breastfeeding mothers have higher energy requirements owing to the demands of milk production.
While some intermittent fasting strategies allow for little snacks or meals during fasting periods, pregnant and lactating women should avoid fasting entirely (12). Instead, they should concentrate on eating a healthy diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. They may guarantee that their bodies receive the nutrients they need for a healthy pregnancy and a good nursing experience by doing so.
While there are several advantages to intermittent fasting, there is one category of individuals who should proceed with caution: elderly folks. Every year, the number of individuals over the age of 60 grows, and with it, the attention on how to maintain this demographic healthy and active intensifies. Intermittent fasting has been shown to provide considerable health advantages for this demographic group, including lowering the risk of dementia (13), as well as decreasing the aging process. It may also reduce inflammation, which can contribute to cancer and cardiovascular disease (14). There are, however, certain possible hazards to be aware of.
Bone density decreases year after year beyond the age of fifty (15). One of the most serious concerns with intermittent fasting is that it may aggravate this and may lead to weaker bones (16). This may increase the likelihood of falls and the hazards connected with them. Broken bones and possibly death are among the dangers (17).
Another problem for this age group is that intermittent fasting might induce a dip in blood sugar levels owing to a lack of food intake for hours on end (18). This may cause dizziness, which can make elderly people more prone to falling.
Intermittent fasting is an excellent technique for healthy folks to enhance their health and reduce weight. However, as previously said, both younger and older segments of the population must carefully assess the hazards involved. There are advantages and disadvantages for various age groups, therefore it is recommended to consult with a medical practitioner and, if required, experiment with intermittent fasting under their supervision.
- Ramadan fast: Should children give up food and water? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-44107950
- Ramadan a guide to healthy fasting https://www.elft.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/Ramadan%20Guide%20to%20Healthy%20Fasting.pdf
- Sunrise Time, Sunset Time May 2022 https://www.suntoday.org/sunrise-sunset/2022/may.html
- Does Ramadan fasting has any effects on menstrual cycles? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3941357/
- Cardiovascular response to short-term fasting in menstrual phases in young women: an observational study https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12905-015-0224-z
- Nutrition in Middle Childhood and Adolescence https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525242/
- Critical analysis of the published literature about the effects of Ramadan intermittent fasting on healthy children’s physical capacities https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.3402/ljm.v10.28351
- State of childhood obesity https://stateofchildhoodobesity.org/data/
- Fast track to health-Intermittent energy restriction in adolescents with obesity. A randomised controlled trial study protocol https://researchmgt.monash.edu/ws/portalfiles/portal/304815697/294117503_oa.pdf
- Efficacy of very low-energy diet programs for weight loss: A systematic review with meta-analysis of intervention studies in children and adolescents with obesity https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/obr.12830
- Eating right during pregnancy https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000584.htm
- Fasting in pregnancy https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/nutrition-in-pregnancy/fasting-pregnancy
- The neuroprotective effects of intermittent fasting on brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases via regulating mitochondrial function https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0891584922000740
- Anti-Senescence Therapy https://www.intechopen.com/online-first/80326
- Osteoporosis: What You Need to Know as You Age https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/osteoporosis/osteoporosis-what-you-need-to-know-as-you-age
- The effects of calorie restriction, intermittent fasting and vegetarian diets on bone health https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40520-019-01174-x
- Frequency of ED revisits and death among older adults after a fall https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4962693/
- Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia https://www.drugs.com/cg/non-diabetic-hypoglycemia.html