Although research suggests that water-only fasting offers health benefits, there is limited research on its safety. Thus, researchers in the U.S carried out a comprehensive review on the safety of water-only fasting.
For the study, which was published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine,the researchers carried out a chart review to assess the adverse events that happened during medically supervised, water-only fasting.
They reviewed electronic charts from 768 patient visits to a residential medical facility from 2006 to 2011.
Patients included in the review were at least 21 years old and performed water-only fasting for two or more consecutive days with a refeeding period equal to half of the fast length.
The recorded adverse events were categorized into five, according to the severity: mild, moderate, severe, life-threatening or disabling, and death.
Results revealed that most of the visits or 65.8 percent reported mild to moderate adverse events, while there were no adverse events in 6.5 percent of visits. In 27.6 percent of the visits, a severe but not life-threatening adverse event was recorded and a life-threatening adverse event occurred in one visit or 0.1 percent.
The adverse effects that commonly occurred during fasting included nausea, headache, insomnia, back pain, dyspepsia, and fatigue. These are considered mild and are known side effects of fasting.
Presyncope, another known effect of fasting, is defined as a moderate adverse event. Hypertension, the largest category among severe adverse events, is not reported to occur due to fasting. In fact, water-only fasting reduced blood pressure in hypertensive patients.
In conclusion, the findings suggested that water-only fasting is generally safe with minimal risk of a severe adverse event.
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Finnell JS, Saul BC, Goldhamer AC, Myers TR. IS FASTING SAFE? A CHART REVIEW OF ADVERSE EVENTS DURING MEDICALLY SUPERVISED, WATER-ONLY FASTING. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2018; 18(67). DOI: 10.1186/s12906-018-2136-6