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Medically supervised water-only fasting in the treatment of high blood pressure. A hundred seventy-four consecutive patients were treated in an inpatient setting. First, a few days of fruits and vegetables. This is to clear out the gut so they don’t become constipated, followed by 10 or 11 days of water-only fasting, before transitioning them back to a whole-food, plant-based diet: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, which are beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils, and nuts and seeds with no animal products, processed foods, or added salt, oil, or sugar.
They all came in hypertensive, over 140/90, but 9 out of 10—89%—walked out with pressures under 140/90. The average reduction in systolic blood pressure was 37 points, which is remarkable compared to other interventions, including drugs. And that was just the average drop. Those that came in with really high pressures, like over 180, experienced a 60-point drop. “This is [arguably] the largest effect ever published in the scientific literature.” And that was after they had all stopped all their blood pressure medications!
They conclude that “medically supervised water-only fasting appears to be a safe and effective means of normalizing blood pressure.” I explored the safety in a previous video, and yes, extraordinarily effective, but for how long? I mean, fasting is the least sustainable diet out there. Interestingly, when they resumed feeding them, their blood pressures dropped even further, suggesting fasting could be used to kickstart the normalization of blood pressure, and then you could keep it down from then on with a healthy-enough diet.
They were able to track down a few dozen patients much later, and, on average, their pressures remained down. We don’t know what happened to the rest, but it shows that, at least, it can provide more lasting benefits for some. A subsequent smaller study followed up people up to a year later, and the blood pressure reduction seemed to hold, along with the weight loss; so, presumably, they stuck with the healthier diet. Now, no one should be fasting for more than a day or two unsupervised. So, this treatment certainly carries a cost, but the entire cost appears to have been recouped within the first year just from decreased medical care costs alone.
An alternative is the Buchinger method of fasting, popular in Europe, where instead of water only, people get like 300 calories a day of fruit juice and vegetable broth. It still needs to be done under professional supervision, but at least people don’t have to take time off of work. People are randomized to seven days of that, and then followed up four months later. After four months, you’d think any benefit from the one week quasi-fast would have disappeared, but their blood pressures ended up fifteen points lower than the control group.
“Although long-term follow-up of these subjects has been sporadic, the available data suggest that these large reductions in blood pressure can be conserved in patients who remain compliant with the follow-up diet – in other words, a ‘cure’ for hypertension may be feasible;” though, of course, if they resumed the original diet that had made them hypertensive in the first place, that would presumably lead to a resurgence of their blood pressures. And, the fast may actually help with that. The preliminary fast may help people stick to healthier “diets that would ordinarily have little appeal to people accustomed to meretriciously salty and greasy meals”—that is an SAT word if I ever saw one. I had to google that one: “apparently attractive but having in reality no value.” Sounds about right.
The secret to long-term benefits may be in helping kickstart the healthier diet by cleansing our palate, which has been so deadened by hypersweet, hypersalty, hyperfatty foods. After not eating for a week, your regular, normal, healthy real food tastes good again. Like the ripest peach in the world would taste sour after a bowl of Fruit Loops, but fasting may re-sensitize our taste buds, such that you can enjoy something like corn on the cob without the added butter and salt; so, you get the best of both worlds: tastes great and less killing.
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