Experts are constantly warning against dangerous fad diets. And now, a new weight loss regime has sparked some serious concerns.
Water fasting is growing in popularity on social media, with thousands of people using the hashtag #waterfast.
The diet involves consuming nothing but water, coffee, and tea. Dieters appear to be using an app called Vora to track their fasts, posting their results on Instagram.
One man has spoken out about his experience on the extreme diet, telling the New York Post that he tried to keep it going for 47 days.
By day five, Elan Kels said, he felt “surprisingly energized and focused.” But by day 28, the water fast had taken its toll, leaving Kels unable to get out of bed in the morning.
Although fasting has been used to successfully lose weight, having nothing but fluids isn’t good for the body.
“There’s lots that’s bad about this diet,” dietitian Jo Travers told the Independent. “For a start, there are pretty much no vitamins and minerals. Most vitamins are water soluble and can’t be stored, so you need them regularly throughout the day.
“Then there is no protein, which means the body has to break down muscle in order to recycle the amino acids into hormones and enzymes to stay alive,” she said.
“You are basically starving yourself, and that comes with huge health risks.”
Experts are calling the new craze a form of disordered eating, with clinical social worker Joanne Labiner telling the New York Post: “It can be so bad for your organs. That’s why people with anorexia can die of a heart attack. Their body feeds on their heart.”
Calling the fasting diet a “cleanse” is also dangerous, added Travers. “This language is so misleading as ‘cleanse’ or ‘detox’ are completely meaningless terms. They have a positive feel to them and have a health halo, but actually it’s a complete myth,” she said.
Although Kels managed to lose 55 pounds in a month, he has put almost half of that back on.
This is because once food is reintroduced back into the diet, phosphorous in the blood can go into the cells, leaving the dieter weak.
The shift in electrolytes can even be so dramatic as to cause cardiac failure and even death.
Keeping tabs on the amount of water you drink is crucial. Hydration expert Stanley Goldfarb, MD, told the New York Post that consuming over a gallon of water a day “could be dangerous.”
“The problem with these diets is the thinking, ‘If a little is good, a lot of it is better.’ If you went on a diet where you just drank water and didn’t take in anything [else], you could have a real problem excreting all the water you’re ingesting.”
If you’re looking to lose weight, the National Health Service in England recommends losing no more than 2 pounds a week. The organization also advises against fad diets, as they don’t provide a healthy long-term solution.
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