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PLoS One. 2019 Jan 2;14(1):e0209353. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209353. eCollection 2019.

Safety, health improvement and well-being during a 4 to 21-day fasting period in an observational study including 1422 subjects.

Author information

1
Buchinger Wilhelmi Clinic, Überlingen, Germany.
2
Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, corporate member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Berlin Institute of Health, Berlin, Germany.
3
Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes and Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, University of Colorado, School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado, United States of America.
4
Division of Geriatric Medicine, University of Colorado, School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado, United States of America.
5
Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, Strasbourg, France.
6
UMR 7178 Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Strasbourg, France.
7
Institute of Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, corporate member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Berlin Institute of Health, Berlin, Germany.
8
Department of Internal and Integrative Medicine, Immanuel Krankenhaus Berlin, Berlin, Germany.

Abstract

Only few studies document longer periods of fasting in large cohorts including non-obese participants. The aim of this study was to document prospectively the safety and any changes in basic health and well-being indicators during Buchinger periodic fasting within a specialised clinic. In a one-year observational study 1422 subjects participated in a fasting program consisting of fasting periods of between 4 and 21 days. Subjects were grouped in fasting period lengths of 5, 10, 15 and 20±2 days. The participants fasted according to the Buchinger guidelines with a daily caloric intake of 200-250 kcal accompanied by a moderate-intensity lifestyle program. Clinical parameters as well as adverse effects and well-being were documented daily. Blood examinations before and at the end of the fasting period complemented the pre-post analysis using mixed-effects linear models. Significant reductions in weight, abdominal circumference and blood pressure were observed in the whole group (each p<0.001). A beneficial modulating effect of fasting on blood lipids, glucoregulation and further general health-related blood parameters was shown. In all groups, fasting led to a decrease in blood glucose levels to low norm range and to an increase in ketone bodies levels (each p<0.001), documenting the metabolic switch. An increase in physical and emotional well-being (each p<0.001) and an absence of hunger feeling in 93.2% of the subjects supported the feasibility of prolonged fasting. Among the 404 subjects with pre-existing health-complaints, 341 (84.4%) reported an improvement. Adverse effects were reported in less than 1% of the participants. The results from 1422 subjects showed for the first time that Buchinger periodic fasting lasting from 4 to 21 days is safe and well tolerated. It led to enhancement of emotional and physical well-being and improvements in relevant cardiovascular and general risk factors, as well as subjective health complaints.

Conflict of interest statement

FWT is member of the Directory Board of the Buchinger Wilhelmi Clinic (BWC), where the study was performed. As managing director of Amplius GmbH, FWT executes the scientific leadership at BWC. Amplius GmbH is a company that conceives, coordinates and develops fasting research on behalf of BWC. FG is currently employed, and SD was formerly employed, at BWC. AM is a consultant at BWC and receives financial compensation for this role from Amplius GmbH. This does not alter the authors' adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

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