Can you safely fast-track weight loss?

Fasting: “The perfect jump-start!”

People have fasted for centuries, mostly for religious reasons. But these days, short-term fasting to lose weight is much more common.

At first blush it sounds like a good strategy: in a 2002 study by ­scientists at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, healthy adults lost 1 to 2 percent of their body weight during a 36-hour fast (during which they consumed nothing but water) and up to 5 percent in six days. The subjects’ feelings of hunger and fatigue increased with the length of the fast—contradicting the argument often heard that hunger fades with prolonged fasting. Most discouraging, though, was that the fasters lost mostly muscle, not fat.

Juice fasts like Jane’s may be better at curbing hunger since they ­provide some calories: most juice fasts recommend four 12-ounce glasses of fruit and/or vegetable juice in addition to water—better but hardly a nutritious menu by any standard. You should only fast if you are otherwise healthy and any prolonged fast should be medically supervised.

Next: Fat Burners, do they really rev your metabolism? »

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