Let’s face it. There are about a million and one options for weight
loss on the market. Social media, magazines, books, and infomercials are
advertising the next best way to “lose fat fast!” But most
of the time, we either find ourselves trudging through restricted diets
and giving up after only a few weeks or drinking strange teas and hoping
that they will flush out our “toxins.”
People need to detox: Myth or fact? Watch this
Health MythBusters video to find out.
In recent years, the weight loss market has begun singing the praises of
fasting. There are many variations of fasting, including intermittent fasting,
time-restricted fasting, and once-a-month fasting. Because of this, it can be difficult to decide
where to start or whether it is a healthy weight loss solution in the
The answer, like many diet fads, is complicated.
What is fasting and why is it so popular?
Fasting has been around for centuries. When humans’ only source of
survival was hunting and gathering, humans would frequently go without
food for days until they found their next meal. Certain religions practice
fasting on an annual basis as a
spiritual cleansing or community tradition in recognition of their belief.
Fasting is the act of limiting your food and/or liquid intake over an extended
period of time. Sometimes, this can mean not eating any solid foods for
a set period of time and drinking juice instead. Other times, it can mean
stopping your food intake at specific hours of the day.
More recently, fasting has entered the weight loss and health arena as
a way to help people manage their food intake, diminish fat, as well as
reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and
What are some of the potential benefits of fasting?
Many people decide to try fasting because they can’t seem to stick
to a regimented calorie restriction diet plan. Researchers have found
that it can be much more challenging to continuously monitor your caloric
intake then it is to fast once a month. In a study done by gerontological
researcher Valter Longo of the University of Southern California, he found
that when mice and human volunteers practiced a type of short-term fasting
that they call “fasting mimicking,” they were able to jumpstart the rejuvenative effects of fasting
without the hardships faced in hard-core fasting, defined as a water-only
diet for an extended number of days.
Once a month, the subjects would eat approximately 1,200 calories, for
five days straight and then would resume their natural eating habits until
the next month. They found that “Only three rounds of alternating
between the diet and normal eating appeared to improve the participants’
physical condition, reducing blood glucose, trimming abdominal fat, and
cutting levels of a protein associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular
disease. Longo and colleagues also detected a slight rise in the abundance
of some stem cells in the blood, suggesting that the diet might promote
regeneration in humans.”
What are the potential risks of fasting?
Because calorie restriction is hard to adhere to and can negatively impact
health, it is important for individuals thinking of fasting to speak with
their health care provider before attempting to drastically change their
daily eating habits.
Fasting does have risks. The medical community does not unanimously agree whether fasting can
effectively help you lose weight and keep weight off. It is especially
difficult to lose weight in continuous fasting regimens because of our
natural compensatory reactions to intensive calorie restriction. Studies
have found that people may get into a pattern of fasting and then binging
afterwards. And eating less than 1200 calories per day can prompt your body to
decrease its metabolism. These can create the opposite of the intended effect and increase the
risk of unwanted weight gain and eating disorders.
Also, despite the claims made in popular fasting advertisements, fasting
has not been proven to help “detox” the body of its toxins.
Trying to find the right weight loss plan can be frustrating. But, if you
take your time and do it in a research-based, supervised way, you can
shed unwanted weight and keep it off. Talk to your health care provider,
and they can help create the best path for you.
St. Joseph Health has many registered dieticians who specialize in helping
patients with weight loss, including the nationally recognized
HMR weight management program offered at St. Jude and St. Joseph Heritage Medical Groups, voted the
best fast weight-loss diet in America. Call (714) 446-5154 for more information about the HMR program
or to sign up for a free orientation.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.