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Does fasting lead to anorexia?

There is consistent research that shows that one of the most consistent predictors of an eating disorder is dieting.  While fasting rarely leads to anorexia per se, it can set into place a set of behaviors and schemas (or beliefs) about food, body image that place a person at greater risk of anorexia nervosa.  However, anorexia nervosa is not simply a product of dieting or fasting, but is determined by a complex set of variables such as family variables, other psychiatric issues, temperamental (e.g. personality) factors.  Fasting should typically be done under the supervision of a physician or licensed health professional who can educate a client about the possible risks of fasting.  

Sometimes fasting can become an obsession and lead to anorexia nervosa. Cases where a doctor actually recommends fasting as a weight loss treatment are few and far between, and it is usually only recommended for morbid obesity. When the doctor does instruct a person to fast, they usually recommend partial fasting, in which an individual fasts once a week or once a month. Anorexia nervosa involves total starvation for cosmetic or psychological reasons, and this unmanaged condition can lead to serious health complications. Anorexia often shows up in young people and in those who are of a regular weight.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.