I am ashamed to admit that I got suckered into the excitement of experimenting with an extended, water-only fast.
But before I go deeper into my shameful lack of awareness prior to my water-fast, I must differentiate between what I did, (a water-only, longer term, eg., 5-day, fast) and very short-term fasts such as is practised by some religions or ideologies.
The notion of blasting off body weight by eating nothing and drinking only water was a big change from the everyday vegan, no oils, lifestyle I’ve adopted over the past few years. On that lifestyle I dropped over 35 pounds and was feeling great. I salivated at the notion of dropping another 5 or 10 pounds in a matter of days! So, I jumped in.
Afterwards, as I struggled to recover from the fast, [worst stomach pains I ever experienced, and other issues!], a good friend reminded me that I should have been more sceptical before jumping in. But I had convinced myself that since there were so many articles to the positive benefits, I had done sufficient homework. Instead, now in hindsight, I was guilty of SELECTIVE PERCEPTION–seeing and reading only what supports an already formed opinion or belief.
My buddy suggested I apply the test of “Cui Bono”.
Cui Bono is Latin for “Who is to benefit”. It makes for a really powerful advertising-, and, propaganda-neutralising tool. He and I use it often to see through the fog that often accompanies concepts relayed by the media, politicians and health organisations who stand to profit when propagating half-truths.
In modern jargon, some authors simpy refer to Cui Bono as, “Follow the Money”. Usually when you do, the bias, the slant, the hidden influences are revealed since money does influence methodology, data sampling, whether or not outliers are going to be included or explained, interpretations, and outcomes. Proponents of follow-the-money methodology even charge that, in some instances, money buys outright unethical and fraudulent behaviour.
When we apply Cui Bono, or Follow-the-Money, to FASTING we have very good reason to raise our suspicions that, since fasting, like every fad diet before this, is making its proponents richer, some making many multi-millions of dollars, the information flow will likely be selectively presented, possibly even tainted. Now, in hindsight, I’m pretty sure everything I read prior to my fasting experiment, and the videos, was super-hype. I should have triggered my suspicions when I found no video and no search requests to the negative coming in my search results. I should have asked the question, are the PR firms busy at burying negative search results? Likely not in this instance, but it did make me wonder if even the PR firms stood to make a tidy fortune to ensure the right names come up near the top of search lists by constantly doing hand-to-hand combat with Bing, Yahoo, and Google search algorithms.
Even if search lists are not being manipulated, I’m pretty sure no one in the fasting-related business will be eager to see published any negative facts that might derail that money train. My good buddy was absolutely right. I should have thought of looking at who is benefiting and doing so from both sides of the fasting debate BEFORE jumping into it. But, I hadn’t.
When I did, I was very surprised to learn that long-term, water-fasting does have a number of very severe downsides, for many people, including the possibility, FOR SOME PEOPLE, of increased risk factors associated to an earlier DEATH.
For CENTURIES entrepreneurs have tried to make money by promoting what people love to hear. Diet fads are particularly appealing because authors, even some doctors, can take a tiny piece of a much larger story and spin book after book on that tiny piece of fact while ignoring hundreds of other studies or facts that disprove the very thesis of what the author is peddling.
One of the earliest, recorded, popularised diets was the Apple-Cider diet. It failed after most of its followers could no longer tolerate it.
Shortly afterwards, some cigarette companies promoted cigarette diets.
Then came one-fruit, and one-veggie diets.
People were even swallowing parasites which, the claim went, would eat your food before you fully digested it.
Those diets didn’t work to keep weight off so people clamoured for other methods.
Along came a variety of calorie-counting and exercise diets such as cardio-boxing, dancing, aerobics of all kinds; milkshake diets, smoothies diets, the Scarsdale Diet, The Rice diet, a variety of drug-assisted diets, (both over-the-counter and prescription), the ATKIN’S DIET, the ZONE Diet, the SOUTH BEACH Diet, Ephedra diets, bowel-cleansing diets, drug-blocking-fats diets, and drugs-blocking-nutrients diets, and on and on.
Today we hear of the KETO-DIET, INTERMITTENT FASTING DIET, and the LONGER-TERM WATER-ONLY FASTING DIET.
People love the rich promise of diets. Imagine losing weight eating lots of barbecued steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs, salmon, and chicken. Your taste-buds are dancing. Right? Of course. Favorite American foods in a gluttonous free-for-all. Who would say no, provided the premise holds true, that, you lose weight while pigging out on fatty foods.Who thinks to ask, “Where’s the proof it won’t harm arteries, heart and other organs?” Almost all of us want something for nothing. It’s called the larceny motive. In the arena of optimizing one’s health promises like this are often put out to the masses, and business soars.
Fasting has already become big business and is now growing by leaps and bounds.
Books alone provide publishers with millions of dollars in revenues. Some authors receive very healthy royalty checks after 100,000 or more of their books go flying out of bookstores. There are companies providing specialized foods, specialized vitamin packs, consulting programs, training programs, seminars, even manufacturing specialized equipment to monitor the body’s statistics while fasting. Specialized hospitals appeared, and continue to spring up.
Cui Bono? Definitely, yes!! Fasting is a massive financial, going concern.
Even some big pharmaceuticals are paying attention. It knows that, just about everyone wants to go on a diet to see immediate results, but that almost always, results are not long-lasting. So, big pharma knows people are frustrated with dieting. If big pharma could serve up a pill to emulate all the weight loss mechanisms as if the body was undergoing a lengthy, water-only fast, how much could they charge per pill? That would make the current gigantic fasting industry much larger.
Now that all that money is being made, and with the prospect of making tons more cash when other innovations and pharmaceuticals hit the fasting industry, few people from within the fasting industry would dare encourage an end to that money stream. I’d guess you could almost hear them cringe when negative publicity does surface. Yet, there are negatives we should be aware of which are associated to longer-term, water-only fasting.
Some doctors and researchers have drawn a “line in the sand”, so to say, and are now bringing to light some of the negatives associated to water-fasting.
Logically, and through experience, most of know or can guess, that pushing one of the body’s mechanisms very far in one direction will either push or pull some other body mechanism out of its homeostatic state, thereby disrupting at least two, but likely more stabilized states within the body’s mechanisms and chemistry. During longer-term, water-fasting, losing a significant amount of weight will produce a temporary positive effect on the body since there’d be less weight to bear, less constriction of organs from the fat around them, etc. It might even provide temporary relief for the lymphatic system, (immune system), or even the heart itself. But rapid weight loss almost always extracts a toll.
Some people get very dizzy, nauseous, contract some illnesses, become fatigued, lose their ability to concentrate, and so on.
As early as 1965 the medical profession has been reporting SOME DEATHS due to LONGER-TERM, WATER-ONLY FASTING. One death was due to lactic acidosis. Two patients died of heart failure. One autopsy revealed that another patient, a young woman, died during refeeding following her long-term fast. Guess what she died from? A broken heart…literally! They discovered fragmentation of the cardiac myofibrils.
And the DANGERS that I recently discovered, after my experiment, of course, were right there in the literature had I thought to look past the hype: breakdown in electrolyte homoeostasis, cardiac arrhythmias, severe orthostatic hypotension, severe normocytic, normochromic anemia, and gouty arthritis. As a result of these DANGERS, doctors classified the practice as unsafe because it exposes practictioners of long-term, water-only fasts to undue risk. See note 1 below
But people still wanted an easy way to lose weight. So, decades after the above negative information about longer-term, water-only fasting emerged, and got files away, the craze shifted away from fasting to low-calorie, high-fat, and high-protein diets.
One of the more popular diets was the liquid protein diet. Again a number of people DIED on the liquid protein diet. Even ingesting all that protein didn’t save them and still resulted in heart muscle damage. (See note 1 below)
Dr. Alan D. Lieberson is on the web to provide a word of caution. He mentions that, if your water fast lasts for days or longer, the risks grow dramatically….compromise your immune system and organ function, possibly damaging the kidneys and liver… (See note 2 below)
Referring to a number of authors, (some have sold over 500,000 copies of their books on fasting), and also referring to some fasting institutions, QuackWatch.com warns that some fasting proponents are making INCORRECT CLAIMS, “…that the body decomposes only dead, dying and damaged cells, tumors and abscesses, and that all vital organs are spared.” It goes on to show how deadly some of that alleged fiction can be. One young woman who was desperate to lose a large amount of weight and correct her insulin problems in the process, died after being told to stop her insulin to undergo a water-only fast. Three other clients of that same institution suffered impaired memories resulting from prolonged fasting. One patient even developed beriberi. (See note 3 below)
An article by Alissa Fleck, on the web, cites a number of other authorities who also warn that long-term, water-fasting can result in headaches, dizziness, blood pressure problems, abnormal heart behaviour, gout, gallstones, interference with medications, damage to the immune system, and damage to organs such as liver and kidneys, (See note 4 below)
When we apply Cui-Bono, (follow-the-money), and use that to motivate us to dig much deeper into the information that is not readily presented, we discover plenty of reasons to be suspicious of the many wonderful claims being made about long-term, water-based fasting.
At the very least, if after reading this Nugget you still want to try it, be absolutely certain to meet with your physician, who is qualified to diagnose and treat illnesses and is authorized to prescribe medications and therapies, to discuss this concept of fasting, even the Keto-Diet or Intermittent Fasting, or ANY DIET!
TIP: HOW TO MAKE CORRECT CHOICES:
In the world of medicine, professionals are trained to choose a REVERSIBLE PATH, if one exists. In the matter of longer-term, water-only fasting, that principle would suggest: don’t do it, if you have other options. If you don’t have any options then do it knowing you will need CLOSE MEDICAL SUPERVISION, likely within a medical institution, since there is a possibility of irreversible damage to some organs.
Whenever possible, avoid choosing the irreversible path.
1- “A History of Modern Research into Fasting, Starvation, and Inanition”, By Lignot and LeMaho. Chapter 2: https://paleoleap.com/long-fasts
2- “Water Fasting Side Effects by NINA K. Livestrong.com. Oct 03, 2017.
3- Quackwatch.com, reference: https://www.quackwatch.org/search/webglimpse.cgi?ID=1&query=fasting
4- “The Disadvantages of Fasting.” By Alissa Fleck. SFGATE. http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/disadvantages-fasting-5546.html
OTHER REFERENCES WORTH NOTING:
- “Effect of a high-fat ketogenic diet on plasma levels of lipids, lipoproteins, and apolipoproteins in children.” By Kwiterovich. JAMA. 2003 Aug 20;290(7):912-20.
- “Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you?”, By Marcelo Campos, MD. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. July 27, 2017
- “Low Carb Diets Found to Feed Heart Disease”, By Michael Greger M.D.Nutrition Facts,org May 19th, 2015