These days, more and more people are embarking on fasting diets – either to lose weight or else as a form of detox following a period of hearty indulgence such as Christmas or Chinese New Year.
Daily Sustenance and Fasting
Fasting is generally defined as going without food or drink for a period of time and has been practised for centuries for religious and other reasons.
The average male Singaporean requires 2,200 calories per day and the average female Singaporean requires 1,800 calories per day as sustenance, according to the Health Promotion Board Singapore.
For those who are fasting, they aim to take in less than 800 calories on the days that they are doing so.
The healthy person does not need a detox
Dr Desmond Wai Chun Tao, a gastroenterologist practising at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, feels that a healthy person does not need to detox. He says, “Our kidneys and liver will get rid of toxins for us no matter what you eat.”
He added that fasting is only for those with kidney failure or liver cirrhosis and they may require dialysis or special forms of detox.
For obese and heavily overweight people who are planning elective surgery to reduce their weight, Dr Tao also recommend they go on fasting diets, to reduce weight fast and thus reduce their risks during the surgery.
Fasting may lead to problems
For healthy individuals, Dr Tao also added that starving or fasting, in the long run, may lead to problems such as protein loss which reduces muscle mass, a drop in blood pressure and glucose levels, hair loss and a thinning of the skin, gallstones and binge-eating.
Severely restricting calories due to fasting may also lead to the breakdown of stored fat as well as proteins. In addition to losing weight, the person’s metabolism will slow down.
He also mentioned that while fasting leads to short term weight loss, there is no difference in long term weight loss, for a person who fasts versus a person who takes the conventional diet approach.
Lose weight the healthy way
Instead Dr Tao recommends that a person should combine a reduction in calories together with exercise amounting to 30 minutes daily – to retain the body’s muscle mass. Such exercise can include running, brisk walking or swimming.
So a female who wishes to lose weight should take in 1,300 instead of the recommended 1,800 calories. This would lead to a healthy weight reduction over time without the undesirable side effects that come with fasting.
Such a diet should also be high in proteins and low in unhealthy fats like trans fats. The person should also take more complex carbohydrates such as brown rice and wholemeal bread.
This article has been adapted from https://www.mountelizabeth.com.sg/healthplus/article/weighing-the-benefits-of-fasting-diets.