(Investigator 2016 May)


Fasting dates back to Biblical times and beyond to the ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.


Fasting for religious observance is practised by four major religions — Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. The psychology of fasting is consistent with asceticism or self-denial it appeals to those for whom sacrifice has become the route to salvation. Fasting is also erroneously believed to play a part in the spiritual effect derived from the cleansing process and ridding the body of toxins.


As a therapy, it is the depriving of the body of food for a period of time — but not of fluid. Many political protesters have survived long periods of time on juice or water and without ingesting solid foods. Some adherents of "holistic" medicine use fasting as a recuperation therapy when they become ill. Fasting has also been used to treat diseases such as headaches, stomach ulcers, asthma, and diabetes although there is little or no evidence of its efficacy.


Fasting can be dangerous and should only be carried out under the supervision of a medical practitioner or a registered dietitian. For those morbidly overweight, fasting (starvation) is a drastic remedy for losing weight.

It is not recommended because prolonged fasting leads to dangerous metabolic imbalances. Supplemented fasting, under skilled medical supervision however, in which individuals eat small amounts of protein combined with exercise, instruction in nutrition and behaviour modification, have shown favourable results.

Contrary to the idea that fasting "cleanses", an abnormal state known as ketosis is brought about by incomplete breakdown of fatty acids into ketone bodies; which may result from low-carbohydrate or starvation diet. The rapid loss of water, sodium and potassium during fasting leads to decreased blood volume which produces postural hypertension and fainting. Severe potassium depletion can also cause a fatal heart rhythm disturbance. The after effects of prolonged fasts (in effect, starvation) can also cause anaemia, osteoporosis, and kidney or liver damage.

There have been many reports of deaths and near deaths of people undertaking unsupervised fasting in recent years. In 1979, a 49 year old man died of bronchial pneumonia the result of a thirty day distilled water diet sponsored by Dr. Shelton's "Health School" in Texas. In 1985, in Melbourne, Australia, a three year old girl died of malnutrition and pneumonia following a twenty-seven day water diet fast recommended by a naturopath. Nine year old Mellissa Larochelle of Ottawa, Canada, died on March 16, 1990 after being on a water-only diet for forty days. In 1987, six "patients" at the California Health Sanctuary at Hollister, California died following prolonged fasting and thirty-six year old David Blume of Philadelphia also died of malnutrition on October 6, 1979, while trying to survive on raw wheatgrass juice.


Age. (Melbourne) 1986. Water diet couple found guilty of manslaughter. March 26.

Butler, K. 1992. A Consumer's Guide to Alternative Medicine. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY.

Hope, Murry. 1989. The Psychology of Healing. Element Books Ltd., Longmead, Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK.

Shelton, H.M. 1978. The Science and Fine Art of Fasting. 5th. edition. Natural Hygiene Press.

Raso, Jack. 1993. Mystical Diets. Prometheus Books

The Herald (Melbourne) 1985. Parents to trial after fast death. May 12.

From: Edwards, H. 1998 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics