Fasting means choosing to go without food, drink, or both for a period of time. It can mean going without any food or going without certain types of food.
There are different kinds of fasting.
- Medical fasting.
- You may be asked to fast for a certain amount of time before a medical test or surgery, often 8 hours or more.
- Religious fasting.
- Many people fast as part of their religion. For example, people may eat nothing on certain days, eat nothing from sunrise to sunset for a certain month, or not eat foods like meat, dairy, and eggs for several weeks at a time.
- Fasting to detoxify the body.
- Some people fast because they believe it rids the body of toxins. But there is no evidence that toxic substances build up in a person whose liver and kidneys are normal.
- Fasting to lose weight.
Some people use fasting as a way to lose weight. There are different kinds of fasting for weight loss. They all require limiting food (or not eating at all) on certain days of the week or during certain times of the day. Experts don't agree on whether fasting is a healthy way to lose weight and keep it off over time.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a type of fasting that limits food on certain days or during certain times of the day. For example, one form involves eating only between the hours of 8 p.m. and noon the following day. People sometimes use intermittent fasting to try to lose weight. You may hear other terms used to describe it, such as alternate-day fasting or 5-to-2 (5:2) fasting.
Is fasting safe?
For people who are healthy, some fasting is probably safe. But for people with some health conditions or who are pregnant or nursing, it might be harmful. It's a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start any new diet or weight-loss plan.
Other Works Consulted
- Bloomer KG, et al. (2010). Effect of a 21-day Daniel fast on metabolic and cardiovascular disease risk factors in men and women. Lipids in Health and Disease, 9: 94. Also available online: http://www.lipidworld.com/content/9/1/94.
- Whitney E, Rolfes SR (2011). Metabolism: Transformations and interactions. In Understanding Nutrition, 12th ed., pp. 205–229. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Current as of: August 21, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator