Diet Myth or Truth: Fasting Is Effective for Weight Loss

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Dangers of Fasting for Weight Loss

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When you dramatically reduce your calorie intake, you will lose weight. But it can also cause all kinds of health problems, including muscle loss. Further, when you start fasting, your body goes into conservation mode, burning calories more slowly. Keep in mind that the initial weight lost on a fast is primarily fluid or "water weight," not fat. And when you go back to eating, any lost weight usually gets a return ticket back.

Not only do most people regain weight lost on a fast, they tend to add a few extra pounds because a slower metabolism makes it easier to gain weight. Worse, the weight that is regained is likely to be all fat -- lost muscle has to be added back at the gym. Side effects of fasting include dizziness , headaches , low blood sugar , muscle aches, weakness , and fatigue.

Prolonged fasting can lead to anemia , a weakened immune system, liver and kidney problems, and irregular heartbeat. Fasting can also result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, muscle breakdown, and diarrhea. When you drink laxative concoctions during a fast, there is an increased risk of fluid imbalance and dehydration.

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Just ask MP Tom Watson! Blood pressure dropped and everyday tasks such as getting out of a chair or carrying shopping became easier, after the participants had carried out two one-minute sessions a week for six weeks. High-intensity training, or HIT, purports to offer at least the same benefits as conventional activity but in the fraction of the time and is the subject of much research.

The latest study is the first to focus on whether it may help older people. Researcher John Babraj put six men and women aged over 60 through their paces in his lab twice a week for six weeks. Each session began with them pedalling all-out on an exercise bike for six seconds before resting for at least a minute to allow their heart to recover and then giving it their all for another six seconds. Researchers from Abertay University in Dundee pictured said short sessions of high intensity exercise could help ease the 'astronomical' cost of ill-health in the elderly.

Although they began by doing six six-second sprints, by end of the study, they were able to do ten per session — adding up to 60 seconds of activity. After just six weeks, blood pressure fell by 9 per cent and day-to-day activities were easier, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports. Current guidelines say pensioners need to do at least two and a half hours of cycling or fast walking a week, plus two sessions of yoga, gardening or other activities that strengthen muscles.

Dr Babraj said that those who do not have an exercise bike can get the same benefit from six-second runs up a steep hill and added: Andrew Marr has blamed the stroke he suffered on experimenting with high intensity exercise. He said it could be argued that short, sharp sessions put less strain on the heart than lengthier, less intensive ones.

BBC presenter Andrew Marr has blamed the stroke he suffered last year on experimenting with high intensity exercise. Dr Babraj cautioned that people should check with their doctor before embarking on a training programme.

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