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Intermittent Fasting for Teens: Is It Off-Limits?
Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting for Teens: Is It Off-Limits?

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on October 14, 2022
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7 min

From losing excess body fat and improving sleep quality, intermittent fasting can help create healthy habits that improve well-being. It is recommended for healthy adults, but what about teenagers?

Intermittent fasting for teens
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The health and fitness world promotes intermittent fasting as a game-changing device to get your dream body weight. It not only helps you lose weight but also boosts energy levels, strengthens the heart, and improves brain health and function to encourage a sharper mind.

While intermittent fasting promises countless benefits, the eating pattern is tailored to adults who are in good health. The popularity of fasting is growing worldwide, so it’s no surprise that it’s now reaching the younger generations – and many teenagers are interested.

The health and dietary requirements of teenagers and adults differ. Teenagers tend to need more nutrients than adults because they are still growing, both in height and weight. So, limiting food intake for extended periods and imposing dietary restrictions can be harmful.

This article discusses whether intermittent fasting is a safe diet plan for teens.

Intermittent Fasting for Teens: Is It Safe?

Intermittent fasting is not safe for teens like it is for healthy adults. The eating pattern is not recommended for individuals in periods of rapid growth, including children and teenagers. Currently, there is not enough research to determine the safety of fasting on adolescent health, especially as those of a young age have greater nutritional needs than adults.

Furthermore, intermittent fasting and diets focusing on calorie restriction can be harmful to teenagers. Restrictive diets are known to promote disordered eating, and the prevalence of eating disorders is generally higher in adolescent females and young women.

Intermittent fasting plans may be a safe option for overweight teens under the supervision of a doctor. However, it is more beneficial for teens to implement a healthy diet, practice mindful eating, and increase physical activity with regular exercise to aid weight management.

Can Teens Fast?

Teens can fast, but an intermittent fasting plan should only occur under medical supervision from a doctor or nutrition expert. Intermittent fasting can be dangerous without careful monitoring, especially if teens don’t eat enough or get adequate nutrition from their meals.

However, maintaining a healthy diet is not off-limits for healthy teenagers. Therefore, teens can try to follow healthy nutrition and personalized workout plan. One of the options is a 100% personalized wellness book called Beyond Body.

It includes more than 1,000+ recipe combos and is adjusted to users’ medical history, age, and meal preferences. This book can come with the Beyond Body assistant app where you will find hundreds of workouts for any physical activity level.

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While health professionals generally suggest that the diet is safe for most people, they usually refer to adults without health conditions. There is not enough scientific evidence to support intermittent fasting for teens. The general consensus is that teens shouldn’t fast.

However, to stay healthy, teenagers must get at least some physical activity throughout the day and maintain a healthy and nutritious diet. 

Who Should Not Fast?

Intermittent fasting is not healthy for everyone. While short fasting periods are generally safe, they can be detrimental to those with certain health conditions. In addition, intermittent fasting regimens can affect people differently, so you should always check with a doctor first.

As well as children and teens under the age of 18, people in the following categories should not fast:

  • People with medical conditions, such as heart disease
  • People taking medication for diabetes
  • People with blood sugar problems
  • Older adults and the elderly
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • People who are underweight
  • Those with an eating disorder or a history of disordered eating

Should Teens Try Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss?

Generally speaking, teens should not try intermittent fasting for weight loss. Several risks make a fasting diet dangerous both psychologically and physiologically. Teens need specific nutritional requirements, and restricting food, even for short periods, could be damaging to their development and growth.

There are safer strategies for teens to lose fat and reach a healthy weight. It is recommended to make healthy lifestyle changes for those trying to lose weight. That includes following a balanced diet with lots of healthy foods, regular physical activity, and stress management.

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A combination of healthy eating and exercise promotes a calorie deficit, which means you burn more calories than you consume. There are lots of simple ways to burn calories, from taking early morning walks to finding calorie-burning sports that teens can enjoy. 

Does Intermittent Fasting Stunt Growth?

It’s unclear whether intermittent fasting stunts growth, but poor nutrition can. Teens need a lot of energy and nutrients during puberty to maintain a healthy body. If an eating plan significantly reduces calorie and nutrient intake, it may negatively affect growth and development.

Significant developments occur during adolescence, with biological, cognitive, and emotional changes. It is a time of rapid physical growth that turns children into adults. More research is necessary, but restrictive diets, like intermittent fasting, may interfere with this process.

As intermittent fasting has the potential to impact growth, it is never recommended for children under the age of 12.

Is Fasting Good for Teenagers?

In most cases, no, fasting is not good for teenagers. Skipping meals and severely reducing daily calorie intake can cause nutrient deficiencies that harm overall health. The practice of fasting is recommended for healthy adults of 18 years and over when the body is more developed.

However, with careful planning and a strong focus on nutritious foods in the eating window, intermittent fasting may have benefits for teenagers carrying excess weight. A medical professional can advise further on the most sustainable weight loss plan for a teenager.

Possible Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Teens

While it has its risks, intermittent fasting can bring some benefits to teens. Before implementing a fasting routine, you should weigh the possible advantages and drawbacks of the method to make a wise decision.

Here are 3 possible benefits of fasting for teens:

#1 Weight loss

Intermittent fasting is a proven weight loss method. Consuming food during scheduled eating hours helps you eat fewer calories, which promotes a calorie deficit. It also prolongs the period after eating your last meal, encouraging the body to burn stubborn body fat for energy.

Many teenagers have unhealthy eating schedules and often snack frequently. Time-restricted eating can help prevent binge eating, suppress appetite, and promote healthier habits. It can be more accessible for teens because it removes the need for counting calories and macros.

#2 Disease prevention

Fasting can help prevent chronic diseases, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, by protecting against metabolic syndrome. It can reduce certain biomarkers, including lowering blood pressure, blood glucose, and LDL cholesterol levels and improving insulin resistance.

Intermittent fasting reduces inflammation in the body, which helps prevent the development of certain diseases. Chronic inflammation is often the root cause of many chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel diseases.

#3 Blood sugar control

Fasting aids blood glucose control, making it an effective therapeutic strategy for people with impaired glucose and lipid metabolism. This can prevent the progression of type 2 diabetes and provide a non-medical form of treatment for those with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

Intermittent fasting for diabetes management can have several health benefits, but it is not suitable for everyone. Teens and adults should only try intermittent fasting with supervision from a doctor.

Possible Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting for Teens

Although intermittent fasting differs from fad diets, it has potentially adverse side effects. This seems especially true for teens, as there is less research into this age group. Let’s look at some possible side effects.

#1 May trigger disordered eating

Intermittent fasting is associated with symptoms of eating disorders. Restricting dietary habits can cause some individuals to become heavily self-critical. As the dietary pattern has strict rules, teens may find themselves distressed when breaking these rigid rules.

Restricting calories for extended periods can cause hunger and food cravings. This may lead some teens to overeat or binge eat when the eating window arrives. The practice is not recommended for anybody with an unhealthy, disordered relationship with food.

Skipping meals is not recommended for teenagers as it promotes bad habits. Skipping breakfast is linked to an increased risk of obesity and being overweight, as well as poor nutrition quality in children and adults. If teens skip breakfast, it may also reduce cognitive function.

#2 May cause nutrient deficiencies

Without careful planning, intermittent fasting can cause malnutrition. Restrictive diets often miss essential nutrients, which can be detrimental to short-term and long-term health. Adolescents, in particular, are already more nutritionally vulnerable, and fasting could increase the risk.

Eating hours should always focus on a balanced diet that covers all food groups. Unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods are essential for maintaining adequate micro and macronutrient intake. It should also include enough calories for teenagers to maintain optimal health and wellness.

A Word From Our MD

Obesity statistics are incredibly high in the United States. Many factors contribute to obesity in adolescents, especially in the modern world, with easy access to processed foods and sugary beverages. There is also less desire to exercise as technology keeps teens preoccupied.

Intermittent fasting is a popular and well-researched dieting method for healthy adults, but its effects are less known in teens. As younger people have greater nutritional needs, most health experts advise against the restrictive eating pattern, despite its purported benefits.

Strict fasting plans may encourage obsessive eating habits as teenagers try to adhere to the rules of when they can and cannot eat. It may be even more problematic in those who are more susceptible to disordered eating, lack of confidence, and body image issues.

In some cases, short periods of fasting may be a possible strategy to help overweight teenagers lose weight, cut back on snacking, and build healthier habits. However, discussing any dietary interventions with a doctor is necessary to ensure the method is safe for the individual.

Conclusion

So, is intermittent fasting safe for teens?

Overall, the current evidence suggests that intermittent fasting is not the safest option for teenagers who are still growing. Most healthcare professionals do not recommend a fasting regimen for adults under 18, as it comes with many potential health risks.

That said, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to losing weight. With supervision, some teens may benefit from cutting out snacking throughout the day and consuming healthy meals in scheduled eating windows to lose fat and aid weight control.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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