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Diet Myth or Truth: Fasting Is Effective for Weight Loss

Dangers of Fasting for Weight Loss continued...

Side effects of fasting include dizziness, headaches, low blood sugar, muscle aches, weakness, and fatigue.  Prolonged fasting can lead to anemia, a weakened immune system, liver and kidney problems, and irregular heartbeat. Fasting can also result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, muscle breakdown, and diarrhea. When you drink laxative concoctions during a fast, there is an increased risk of fluid imbalance and dehydration.

The risks get more complicated and severe the longer you stay on a fast, or if you repeatedly go on fasts.

Why You Don’t Need a Detox Diet

It sounds logical that fasting could cleanse your body of harmful substances that could cause a host of ailments like obesity, fatigue, and headaches. But there is no scientific evidence that you need to fast to "cleanse" your body or remove toxins.

Your body - specifically, the kidneys, liver, lungs, colon, and skin -- is perfectly capable of removing toxins itself.

The Truth About Fasting

The bottom line: Nutrition experts agree that fasting is a potentially dangerous, and not particularly effective, way to lose weight. 

Instead of a fast, opt for a healthy eating plan that you can stick with long-term  Healthy diets provide a minimum of 1,200 calories and include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and healthy fats, along with regular physical activity

If you are not convinced and want to go on a fast, be sure to consult your physician first.

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

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Reviewed on September 08, 2011

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