To the Editor:

Re “Intermittent Fasting: Its Benefits and Risks,” by Jane E. Brody (Personal Health column, Feb. 18):

Fad diets come and go. The current one, intermittent fasting, crosses the line between what some people have done out of necessity throughout time and some do as a result of upbringing, situational restrictions or biological signals (not eating after dinner).

The new wrinkle is labels for the multiple constellations of intermittent fasting: periodic fasting, time-restricted feeding, alternate-day fasting and the 5:2 diet (within a week eat normally for five days and eat a quarter less than normal for two days, either consecutively or interspersed).

Our food environment has been termed obesogenic, largely due to the availability of affordable food 24/7 in a form that can be consumed virtually instantaneously — no need to dig a potato out of the ground, chop wood, make a fire and roast before it is ready to consume.

The intent of the different intermittent-fasting regimes is to trick oneself into decreasing calorie intake. As with other fad diets, the approach is dependent on long-term adherence, rather than short-term.

Intermittent fasting may seem attractive at first glance. But once it collides with practical issues or social interactions, the bottom falls out. Best to step back, be realistic and personalize adjustments so that they are sustainable within the context of our unique life rhythms.

Alice H. Lichtenstein
The writer is a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University.



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