Is Fasting Healthy?
Fasting has been practiced for centuries. But can it really help you lose weight and get healthier?
Fasting and Weight Loss continued...
Even worse for dieters is that fasting for weight loss "distracts people
from the real message of how to lose weight: lower fat intake, eat five fruits and vegetables a day,
drink water and stop drinking other liquids, walk 30 minutes a day, and get
more sleep," says Fernstrom, an
associate professor of psychiatry, epidemiology, and surgery at the University
of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
In addition, other practices that are often combined with fasting for weight
loss, such as colon cleansing, carry their
"Fasts are sometimes accompanied with enemas to cleanse your intestinal
tract, and that can be very dangerous," says Fernstrom. "The intestinal
tract has a lot of good bacteria. When you are changing that balance, the good
bacteria are affected, too."
Does Fasting Detoxify the Body?
Here's where the debate gets intense.
"There is no scientific evidence it will detox the body. The issue of
fasting to cleanse the body has no biological basis because the body is real
good at that by itself," says Fernstrom. "The liver is a natural detox
center; the lungs, the colon, the kidneys, [the lymph glands] and the skin get rid of toxins."
But Fuhrman, who has supervised hundreds of patients' fasts for medicinal
"We know that the body is unable to rid itself of toxins when we eat a
diet low in nutrients," and that applies to most Americans, even those who
think they are healthy, he says.
"Americans eat 51% of their diet from processed foods and foods low in
phytochemicals and antioxidants," he says. "So you see a buildup of
waste products in the cells -- AGE, advanced glycation end products -- that
build up in cellular tissues and lead to atherosclerosis, aging, diabetes, nerve damage, and the
deterioration of organs. This is basic science and physiology every doctor
learns in medical school."
Along with improving your overall diet, fasting is one solution to that
buildup of AGE, according to advocates like Fuhrman.
"Fasting allows the body to most effectively remove these waste
products," he says. "The body is designed to fast; we do it every
How does fasting remove toxins from the body? When you go without eating for
more than a day or two, the body enters into ketosis. Ketosis occurs when the
body runs out of carbohydrates to burn for energy, so it burns fat.
"And the fat is where the body stores many of the toxins it absorbs from
the environment," Fuhrman says.