Is fasting a safe and effective way to lose weight?

Is fasting a safe and effective way to lose weight?

There are many diet trends out there, but not all are recommended as effective means of weight loss, and not all are considered safe. What about fasting, which is commonly called "intermittent fasting"? Is it safe?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of fasting for weight loss.

Intermittent fasting calls for 12 to 24 hours of very little to no eating. (Some people who fast will eat only 500 calories on their “fast” day.) Some choose to fast once a week, while others might fast every other day. Doctors and dietitians have not always been on board with fasting for fear it could be unhealthy and possibly lead to eating disorders, but in the last decade, research has shown that there are several benefits to fasting. Those include:

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved insulin levels
  • Increased energy

Dr. Mark Mattson, chief of the U.S. National Institute on Aging, has been studying fasting since 1996. In his research, he found that mice who fasted every other day increased their life expectancy by 30 percent. Fasting mice were also more resilient against memory loss, heart disease and even cancer.

Proponents of fasting also suggest that this form of dieting is easier to maintain. They claim that going 12 to 24 hours without food intermittently is easier than logging meals and counting calories for months on end.

On the flipside, because intermittent fasting is focused more on when to eat and not what to eat, it is easy to lose focus on eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods after a fast. Fasting or not, it is important to feed your body the right foods, and avoid processed foods and foods that are high in trans fats, sodium and sugar.

Some of the potential drawbacks of fasting include:

  • Reduced metabolic rate
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Low blood sugar
  • Muscle aches or weakness
  • Fatigue

When it comes down to it, the evidence on fasting for weight loss isn't conclusive. If you are considering fasting for weight loss, here are a few tips:

  • Consult your physician: Before beginning any diet plan, it’s important to talk to your primary care provider to ensure the diet is safe for you.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink eight to 12 glasses of water on fast days. Tea and black coffee can also be used to help prevent headaches.
  • Fast on a busy day: Psychologically, it’s easier to go without food on a day when your schedule is packed with activities, rather than a day when you’re sitting at home.
  • Don’t go overboard on “feast” days: When you break your fast, fight the urge to indulge in junk food. Instead, resume your normal routine of balanced, healthy meals.

If you have a history of binge eating or other eating disorders, fasting is not recommended. If you are pregnant, diabetic or have low blood pressure, consult your physician before considering a fasting diet.

If you have any other questions regarding weight loss and good eating habits, consult with a registered dietitian with Goshen Health Nutrition Therapy.  


Posted: 11/02/2016 by Goshen Health
Filed under: healthy adults, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, wellness awareness

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