Is fasting safe? A chart review of adverse events during medically supervised, water-only fasting

Submitted on October 20, 2018 - 3:30pm

ABSTRACT

Background: Evidence suggests that fasting, during which only water is consumed, results in potentially health promoting physiological effects. However, peer-reviewed research assessing the safety of water-only fasting is lacking. To address this, we conducted a chart review to describe adverse events (AEs) that occurred during medically supervised, water-only fasting.

Methods: Electronic charts from patient visits to a residential medical facility from 2006 to 2011 were reviewed. Patients who were at least 21 years of age and water-only fasted for ≥2 consecutive days with a refeeding period equal to half of the fast length were included. Out of 2539 charts, 768 visits met our inclusion and exclusion criteria. AEs were abstracted from chart notes and classified according to CTCAE (v4.03) and MedDRA (v12.1) terminology. Descriptive analysis of AEs is reported.

Results: During the protocol period, the highest grade AE (HGAE) in 555 visits was a grade 2 event or lower, in 212 visits it was a grade 3 event, in 1 visit it was a grade 4 event, and there were no grade 5 events. There were 2 (0.002%) visits with a serious adverse event (SAE). The majority of AEs identified were mild (n = 4490, 75%) in nature and known reactions to fasting.

Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the most comprehensive analysis of AEs experienced during medically supervised, water-only fasting conducted to date. Overall, our data indicate that the majority of AEs experienced were mild to moderate and known reactions to fasting. This suggests that the protocol used in this study can be safely implemented in a medical setting with minimal risk of a SAE.

Keywords: Fasting, Safety, Adverse events

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