How healthy is it to fast?

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I was wondering how healthy it is to fast. I recently read an article in a magazine and have become interested in trying it. Would it be safe for a female teenager to try it?

For how long?

What kind of fast would be most beneficial? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

An adolescent female is still growing until age 18 and needs calories, protein, iron, and calcium to achieve her genetically determined height, is menstruating (needs additional iron), and is at a very vulnerable age in laying down bone tissue to prevent osteoporosis later in life. Fasting at this time could jeopardize a girl’s lifelong health.

Since the human body burns calories and needs protein, vitamins, and minerals 24 hours a day, I would say that fasting is not healthy for anyone. Fasting does not provide the raw material – food – that the body needs for fuel. Fasting tricks the body into thinking that a famine has occurred and your metabolism slows down. You burn fewer calories so that you can survive longer on your stored fat and lean tissue (organs and muscles).

Some religious beliefs include a day of fast or even several days, which should not be harmful if the person drinks enough water to prevent dehydration. Lastly, fasting has no scientific basis for improving health.

Unfortunately, magazines, newspapers, and television do not usually have people with degrees in nutrition or dietitians making nutritional recommendations. When reading articles on nutrition, first look at the person’s credentials. A Registered Dietitian is a reliable source of nutrition.