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Fasting: who can do it and how to do it safely

By Karen Weintraub
Globe Correspondent / March 12, 2012
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Fasting as a healthy practice has been gaining attention lately, with some studies suggesting that short-term calorie restriction can be safe for healthy people and even beneficial for certain conditions. But researchers offer cautionary notes to anyone considering it.

Intermittent fasting is not meant as a quick weight-loss plan. Most people compensate at least partially for the food they skip, and quickly regain any weight lost.

More is not better. A little fasting may be good, but a lot is not. Restricting calories too severely can be dangerous.

Any dietary changes should be made gradually. Cut out one meal at a time, and eat a small handful of nuts if you are having trouble adjusting to a fast.

Drink lots of fluids, such as water or green tea, when cutting back on food. The health risks of short-term fasting come largely from dehydration.

Consult your doctor before trying any dietary changes, particularly during cancer or other medical treatments.

Don’t drive while fasting. Low blood pressure is a common side effect of fasting, and can drop so low that there is a risk for passing out.

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