Intermittent Fasting and Women’s Health: How Intermittent Fasting Can Affect Hormones and Fertility

A dietary strategy known as intermittent fasting is gaining popularity since it focuses more on limiting meal intervals than particular items.

Although, recent rodent studies raised concerns that intermittent fasting affects female hormone cycles and fertility. Social media have since reinforced these worries.

There have been a few animal studies, but many specialists don’t believe they are highly applicable to people. 

How Does Intermittent Fasting Affect Female Hormones?

The researchers examined two groups of women who followed time-restricted eating programs for eight weeks for the study, which was released last month in the journal Obesity. To evaluate their levels of sex hormones, the subjects were also supplied with blood samples.

Initially, the information was gathered with more than 50 individuals for prior research. However, once the men from this study were eliminated, the researchers left only 12 premenopausal women in one group and 11 postmenopausal women in the other.

Both groups dropped the same amount of weight over the course of the eight weeks. A protein called sex hormone-binding globulin, which regulates the number of other hormones in your blood and levels of specific male sex hormones like testosterone and androstenedione, were not significantly different between the two groups.

The estradiol, estrone, and progesterone levels in postmenopausal women were unchanged. Because doing so would have necessitated meticulous monitoring of the premenopausal women’s menstrual cycles and exact timing, the researchers did not assess the levels of female sex hormones in these individuals.

The study addressed a significant issue. Learning that hormone levels were not changing significantly was an excellent place to begin.

One Confounding Discovery

According to the Mayo Clinic, dehydroepiandrosterone, better known as DHEA, which aids in producing both male and female sex hormones, was the only hormone that underwent substantial alteration over the research period.

According to Dobs, whose study focuses on male sex hormones and endocrine diseases, DHEA, which resembles testosterone in structure, can naturally rise and fall with weight fluctuations.

During the eight weeks when they followed the time-restricted eating schedule, DHEA levels in both research groups of women were observed to be significantly decreased. Despite the decline, the subjects’ DHEA levels remained within the normal range, and other tests revealed no unfavorable effects.

It’s still unclear what the modification truly entails to reverse the side effects of intermittent fasting. On the one hand, increasing DHEA levels have been connected to a higher risk for breast cancer. According to research papers, very high DHEA levels may also be linked to changes in hair growth, severe acne, and irregular menstrual periods.

Therefore, the little drop in DHEA shown in this study may be advantageous for some individuals. It could also be a byproduct of decreasing weight.

The next step in this investigation into elevated DHEA’s potential associations with polycystic ovarian syndrome is being pursued by the study team.

Overall, the DHEA discovery shouldn’t raise too many serious questions. The experts concurred that further research would be required to fully grasp this issue, ideally with a greater age range and longer study time.

Indeed, the groupings weren’t huge, and there wasn’t a fair representation of the many ethnic groups. For example, 10 Black women and 1 White woman comprised the postmenopausal group of 11, with 11 members.

Given that the trial only lasted eight weeks, the researchers weren’t surprised to find that minimal changes had occurred in the levels of the majority of the hormones. According to the researchers, they could understand (any changes) better if they were prolonged for at least three months.

Before Experimenting With Intermittent Fasting…

The findings of this study should comfort anybody interested in attempting intermittent fasting. Following a time-restricted eating regimen wouldn’t have any detrimental effect on their hormone levels or fertility.

Keep in mind that there are several strategies based on intermittent fasting that may be effective for you. The study’s time-limited eating models, which restricted individuals to eating for just four or six hours each day, are more stringent than others.

Additionally, for some people, intermittent fasting methods, such as the alternate day fasting effects, might be harmful. Before significantly adjusting your diet, speaking with your doctor is usually a good idea. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, this is crucial in this situation for persons who are taking specific drugs and those who have particular medical problems, including diabetes.

Keeping in touch with a fertility expert who can advise you on reproductive health is preferable. After evaluating your general well-being, you will receive recommendations on your diet and activity. A fertility counselor should be consulted if you have any questions.


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