How intermittent fasting affects female hormones: New evidence comes from study of pre- and post-menopausal obese women on the warrior diet

Intermittent fasting has been shown to be an effective way to lose weight, but critics have worried that the practice may have a negative impact on women’s reproductive hormones. Now, a team of University of Illinois Chicago researchers has published a study in Obesity that brings new evidence to the table.

The researchers, led by Krista Varady, UIC professor of nutrition, followed a group of pre- and post-menopausal obese women for a period of eight weeks on the “warrior diet” method of intermittent fasting.

The warrior diet prescribes a time-restricted feeding window of four hours per day, during which dieters can eat without counting calories before resuming a water fast until the next day.

They measured the differences in hormone levels, obtained by analyzing blood sample data, in groups of dieters who stuck to four- and six-hour feeding windows against a control group that followed no diet restrictions.

Varady and her team found that levels of sex-binding globulin hormone, a protein that carries reproductive hormones throughout the body, was unchanged in the dieters after eight weeks. The same held true for both testosterone and androstenedione, a steroid hormone that the body uses to produce both testosterone and estrogen.

However, dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA, a hormone that fertility clinics prescribe to improve ovarian function and egg quality, was significantly lower in both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women at the end of the trial, dropping by about 14%.

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