To Fast or Not Too Much Fast


Last week I discussed some of the popular literature on fasting. 1 For anyone who has ever experienced the frustration of dieting without noticeable effect, fast ing can seem an almost irresistible alternative, But many fasting enthusiasts also claim that fasts can help cure anything from multiple sclerosis and sterility to asthma and the common cold. Moreover, they credit fasting with lengthening the life span and restoring youth, health, and vitafity. Obviously, such claims only add to the significant credibility gap in this literature. To begin with, the popular fasting community’s credibility is greatly weakened by general nonempiricism and wholesale disparagement of modem science and medicine. Many popular fasting publications completely lack conventional scientific documentation. Fasting’s supporters, on the other hand, point out a lack of scientific interest in their work. They note that the subjects in most scienttlc studies on fasting are allowed vitamin supplements and electrolyte replacement, and many are permitted fruit juices and tea. Such studies may not be relevant if you are trying to define the effects of a fasting diet limited to distilled water. Much legitimate scientific work on fasting has taken place, however. About the only thing everyone agrees on is that fasting will make you lose weight. According to an article in Scierrtific Amen”can by Vernon R. Young and Nevin S. Scrimshaw, both of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it was Waker Lyon Bloom, Piedmont Hospital, Atlanta, and Garfield G. Duncan, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, among orthodox clinicians, who independently pioneered the “modem” study of fasting as a treatment for obesity, z though fasting had been used by medical authorities as a treatment for diabetes as early as the mid1800s.3 (More on this later.) In his 1959 study of nine obese patients who had fasted for periods ranging from four to nine days, Bloom found that upon the patients’ resumption of normal eating, a 600-8Q0 calorie per day diet produced satiety. Prior to fasting, this same amount had proven unsatisfactory. In addition, Bloom noted that in follow-up studies, patients had maintained a large part of their weight loss and, in most cases, had continued to lose weight.q In the early1960s, Duncan treated more than 1,300 obese patients at Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia. Each patient fasted for periods ranging from ten days to two weeks, with patients returning for repeated fasts at varying intervals. In 1965, he reported his observations in Postgmdua te Medicine. He concluded that intermittent fasting could bean effective temporary therapy for the obese patient whose cond~tion was unresponsive to other forms of treatment. About half of the 890 patients in his series of studies continued to lose weight following their initial fast. s Incidentally, the use of fasting as a

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Bloom1981ToFO, title={To Fast or Not Too Much Fast}, author={Waker Lyon Bloom and Piedmont Hospi-Tal and Atlanta and Garfield G Duncan}, year={1981} }