Intermittent fasting has recently captured the attention of dieters and health professionals alike — but is it a one-size-fits-all solution for weight loss?

The practice of intermittent fasting involves an individual regularly restricting caloric intake for relatively short periods of time by not eating and drinking only zero-calorie beverages like water or black coffee. Studies have suggested that it can help better manage blood sugar and insulin levels in the body, which can help control weight gain and reduce the risk of developing diabetes, according to Healthline.

Obesity in the United States among both adults and children has been a growing public health problem, especially in North Texas, as extensively covered by The Dallas Express. Being obese can increase the risk of an array of adverse health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and depression.

In a recent interview with USA Today, Nutritionist and BodyDesigns owner Mary Sabat weighed in on the trend of intermittent fasting.

“Intermittent fasting may be worth considering for both health and weight loss goals, but it’s not a magic solution,” Sabat told USA Today.

Sabat outlined three popular types of intermittent fasting, which have been named according to their particular “eating window.”

  • 16:8 Method – Fasters refrain from eating 16 hours daily, leaving an eating window of 8 hours. Fasters typically skip breakfast and ingest their daily caloric intake between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m.
  • 5:2 Diet – Fasters eat normally five days a week and limit calorie intake to around 500-600 for two non-consecutive days. The drastic reduction in calories on fasting days amounts to a single bagel with cream cheese or four strips of bacon.
  • Alternate-Day Fasting – Fasting days are alternated with non-fasting days, as the name suggests. Fasters can consume either no or very few calories on fasting days.

Sabat explained to USA Today, “The specific duration that works best for you may depend on your preferences and how your body responds. I personally like to use a 14-hour fast with everyone, especially women, but I will recommend a longer fast for men or someone who is very overweight and insulin resistant.”

One risk of intermittent fasting is that some people could adopt unhealthy eating habits on their non-fasting days or during their eating windows, which could hinder weight loss, according to Healthline. Furthermore, severe caloric restriction comes with various potential side effects, such as hunger, fatigue, insomnia, digestive issues, headaches, and malnutrition.

Sabat stressed the importance of fitting intermittent fasting within “an overall healthy lifestyle” that includes a balanced diet and regular physical activity, reported USA Today. She also pointed out that intermittent fasting is not appropriate for everyone.

“Certain groups, such as pregnant or breastfeeding women, individuals with a history of disordered eating, and those with certain medical conditions, should exercise caution or avoid it altogether,” Sabat told USA Today.

This includes people with high stress levels, whose bodies could respond to intermittent fasting by producing too much of the hormone cortisol. According to Sabat, women, in particular, can experience spikes in their cortisol levels during intermittent fasting that can result in gaining weight instead of losing it. Ultimately, intermittent fasting should be undertaken in consultation with a healthcare professional.

Still, the scientific community has not come to a consensus on the practice.

Research has linked some forms of fasting to increased longevity, with the biological process of breaking down and recycling old cell parts (autophagy) believed to be enhanced through fasting, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. It can have the effect of “resetting” the gut microbiome in particular, which could improve metabolic and digestive health and reduce the risk of various diseases.

On the other hand, as The Dallas Express reported, another study using a sample size of 24,000 adults over the age of 40 found that skipping breakfast correlated to a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.