Is fasting to lose weight safe?

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There are a lot of misconceptions out there about how to lose weight properly. Fasting often comes up as an option, but what’s the real story behind this dieting fad?

We got this question from a viewer:

Dear Dr. Manny,

My friend has been fasting here and there to lose weight, and it seems to be working. Is it safe, and if so, how should I start one?



First off, the concept of fasting isn’t new, but this dieting approach has been gaining popularity recently. Although fasting can result in weight loss, that’s not the only benefit. Other perks include antiaging effects, and, according to a study in the journal Cell Metabolism, reducing the risk of conditions like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

One of the biggest myths about fasting is you can’t eat anything, but this isn’t true. Fasting involves cutting back on calories for a short time— sometimes 12 to 16 hours, a few days a week. The idea is restricting calories will help regulate insulin in your body, which in turn aids weight loss.

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First, you should talk to your doctor before making a change like this to ensure you don’t have other health concerns to consider.

For more on how to start a fast safely, we checked in with Dr. Jason Fung, author of “The Complete Guide to Fasting.” Certain groups of people shouldn’t fast, Fung said, including children under age 18, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or any patient who is underweight, malnourished or suffering from an eating disorder. Patients who take medications should consult with their physicians before fasting.

Fung starts his patients off gradually with a 16- to 18-hour fast, two to three times per week. During that time, he encourages patients to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids such as water, green tea, herbal teas and coffee. He discourages patients from sweetening their drinks or adding artificial flavors..

“Just remember that fasting, like any other skill, gets easier the more you do it,” Fung said.

Do you have a health question? Tweet me at @DrMannyonFox.