Dr. Buchinger’s brilliant insight on why we ever stopped fasting – Our top 5 takeaways

Written By Tina O

Fasting: Why did we ever stop? Here we discuss Dr. Buchinger’s view on fasting and its evolution over time… a long time in fact!

In this lecture, Dr Francois discusses her insights over 40 years of Therapeutic Fasting. I particularly like Dr Francoise’s discussions because she is passionate about long term water fasting, does regular fasts herself (since the age of 17) and runs a fasting clinic.  She is talking from a very hands on experiential perspective, which in my opinion, makes the whole subject of fasting easier to understand.

A little History of fasting and how the research has changed over the years:

  • In the 50’s -60’s mainstream fasting was mostly the norm.
  • Then the “Big Bang“ happened. Someone noticed the negative nitrogen balance during fasting and people panicked believing that fasting was causing muscle loss. The positive nitrogen balance during the refeeding/regeneration was not addressed. So now there was a fear instilled that the medical community had to address this. Thus the emergence of the “protein dogma”.
  • Dietary interventions such as Modifast started as well as commercial formulas and the “Magic Bullet“.
  • In the 1970’s protein fasts started. One of the first protein fasts was a low quality formula that led to fatalities. It Ironically called “The Last Chance Diet ).
    • Horrible effects: This protein fast began the myth that fasting can lead to death. When really it was this diet and the effect of all the protein that caused the danger.
  • The Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) started following this debacle.
    • It was recommended 400-500 cals a day plus min 40-50 gm of biologically adequate protein.
  • Opti-fast and magic bullet drugs also started around this time, such as like appetite suppressants, fat absorption inhibitors and uncoupling proteins started. Dr Buchinger mentions that only industry can benefit from these products.
  • Now a whole new area of research has opened up that looks at the long term effects of fasting and is interested in longevity. Research is going in the right direction again!
  • The new goals with research now are, slow down aging, decrease age associated diseases, decrease insulin, glucose, IGF-1, and increase ketone bodies. Increasing Healthspan is now looked at. (I’m interested!)
  • In a large study The Buchinger Wilhelmi Fasting protocol shows a lot of the parameters for slowing down aging, mentioned above, are met .
  • Pure water fasting has been shown to be the more effective than any of the products or mimicking diets attempted to achieve these benefits. 

5 takeaways:

  1. When humans fast willingly and according to safe method they can obtain a wide range of therapeutic effects. Fasting can also serve as vision quest  and spiritual experience “
  2. “Fasting is the strongest stimulation of the human self healing mechanisms, at body as well as soul level “ quote by Dr Heinz Fahrne, 1989.( chief doctor of clinic )
  3. Of the new fast-mimicking drugs and supplements. Mark Mattson “Fasting is perfectly safe, whereas I always have concerns about taking a drug. The thing with fasting is that nobody makes any money off it. That’s why you have companies saying they can mimic some of all of the benefits
  4. Lots of incredible  truths have been written about fasting throughout the years, however we didn’t understand the “how”.  Now, thanks  to developed research on an international level we understand the mechanism, the “why”, so to speak.
  5. The original founder Dr. Otto Buchinger cured his polyarthritis  after a streptococcal infection after 19 days of fasting . (Insert Chart at 11:59 showing the results and how he felt)


Dr Francois’ insights on fasting as well as benefits, and length of fasts. Multidimensional aspects and types of diseases Buchinger clinic specializes in.

  • Dr Francois  defines fasting as “ability of body to live without food through the digestive system for a certain amount of time, letting the body cells burn the fat that we keep as main energy storage in the adipose tissue”.
  • “Fasting triggers a switch in gene activation and in metabolic pathways.  It activates the elimination of cell and molecular garbage and modulates immunity .”
  • 3 dimensions of fasting : Medical, Community and Spirituality. Community and Spirituality is a big part of fasting yet this this complexity makes it  hard to study .
  • She brings up several points of the “naturalness of fasting “. She mentions it is more natural to fast periodically than to not to .
  • In general Humans have up to 40 days of fat reserves. In the Buchinger clinic  they never have had patients reach a full exhaustion of fat. This is reassuring to me as fasting can instill a fear of starving, depletion, etc…
  • For the longer (10, 14, 21 day) therapeutic fasts there is always a transition period before and after. This helps ease into the fast as well as sustain the results of the fasting.
  • Interesting Fact: in 1965 an obese man, Angus, went without food for 392 days! It was said he lived on tea, coffee, soda water, and vitamins during the majority of his fast. 
  • Buchinger Wilhelmi clinic mainly treats metabolic and inflammatory diseases. Just to name a few: metabolic syndrome, hypertension, diabetes type 2, cardiovascular diseases, rheumatoid disorders, allergies, fibromyalgia, and GI disorders. All with no drugs!
  • New ongoing research on applying fasting for cancer, epilepsy, MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimers,  and Chemotherapy. This just shows the far reaching benefits of fasting and it seems we are finding out more and more about this.


What role do fast mimicking diets and supplements play in the  world of fasting ?

  • Dr Buchinger feels long-term water fasting (although her clinic  provides veggie broth?) is the best way. However there is a place for the convenience of fast mimicking diets. (Valtor Longo) as well as supplements. If one does not have the desire or confidence for “the real thing,” these  can be a convenient tool.
  • Here is Dr Valtor Longo’s explanation on the benefits and reasons for the Fast Mimicking Diet



  • Dr. Francois Is concerned industry attempting to create fast mimicking molecules, etc. with profit in mind and with the subtle suggestion these can take the place of water only extended fasting…  “why get the benefit for free when you can pay for it …” –  Dana G Smith. (award winning health and science writer).                    

In summary, fasting research has changed over the years and we see in this presentation many of the reasons why. Fasting is so multifaceted. It affects both the body, mind and spirit. While there is a place for fast mimicking protocols, I think Dr Francois is trying to convey “the real thing” is a very complex, holistic process, and it is hard to duplicate all of the amazing benefits in a pill or product. Fast Mimicking Diets, intermittent fasting, ketogenic diets can also be very beneficial, but will not provide the full suite of benefits that the water only extended fasting does.

Here are some other fasting resources you might be interested in:

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