Fasting finesse: Phoenix doctor discusses intermittent fasting trend

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(Source: AP Images) (Source: AP Images)

By Sharon Thompson, MD, MPH, FACOG

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” “Skipping breakfast will slow your metabolism by one third for the entire day.”

Chances are you’ve been told at least one of these statements — usually with some finger wagging. Both are myths. Fasting, abstaining from food and/or drink for a specific period, has been around for centuries. Recently, scientific studies have shown intermittent fasting can have health benefits.


Short fasts, 20 to 36 hours, can:

  • Reduce risks for heart disease and diabetes

  • Improve sensitivity of cells to insulin so less insulin is needed to control blood sugar

  • Increase HDL (good cholesterol)
  • Decrease weight – when people skip a meal or two, they eat more at the next meal but not enough to make up for the missed calories

Consider these guidelines: 

  • Short works: Some studies show, skipping one meal every other day is enough to produce modest weight loss

  • Stay hydrated: If you are not fasting for religious reasons (this usually has specific prescriptions) drink plenty of water during your fast

  • Hold off on vigorous exercise: A walk is fine but skip the cardio kickboxing workout or strenuous hike on a fasting day
  • No heavy machinery: Don’t operate any heavy machinery — including cars — until you know how you feel while fasting
  • Eat well: Fasting cannot make up for a poor diet
  • Keep healthy limits: Fasting too often or too long can lead to nutritional deficiencies and poor health

Consult your physician before fasting if you are:

  • Pregnant
  • Diabetic
  • Severely underweight
  • Recuperating from surgery
  • Have or have had an eating disorder
  • Have a serious medical condition

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