On Nutrition

Just when you think fad diets and their health claims can’t get any stranger, along comes dry fasting. There are two forms of dry fasting, and both ask you to give up water, either temporarily or permanently. Let that sink in for a moment while I explain why I’m filing dry fasting under “don’t try this at home … or anywhere else.”

One form of dry fasting advocates for getting ALL of your water from fruits and vegetables. The main claims are that meeting your water needs this way reduces inflammation and boosts immune system health. Why? Because, allegedly, the water in produce is H3O2 — think H2O with an extra hydrogen and oxygen atom — which proponents also refer to as “living water” or “gel water.”

Here’s the thing: The “research” that living water enthusiasts cite isn’t actually research. The few scientific journal articles they point to only pose theories — they aren’t randomized, controlled trials that measure whether people who get all their water from produce are healthier or more hydrated than those who actually drink water. I should also mention that these articles were published in “predatory” journals — journals that don’t really care what they publish as long as the author pays a fee. That’s not how legitimate scientific journals work. Finally, these few “groundbreaking” papers were published around a decade ago and there’s been no follow-up research. That’s a big red flag.

The other type of dry fasting suggests that we avoid both food and water for periods of time. More or less like intermittent fasting, only ignoring hunger and thirst. One popular proponent says this form of dry fasting detoxes the body, a common fasting claim not based on biological fact. Specifically, she claims that dry fasting reduces inflammation and drives bad bacteria, viruses and worms out of your body because all of these things need water to thrive. Curious, given that the adult body is about 60% water, every cell in the body contains water, and failing to get enough water can impair your body’s functioning, and perhaps your health.

To meet fluid needs, men generally need 13 cups of water per day, and women need about nine cups. On average, we meet 81% of those water needs with liquids, and the rest comes from food. Most fruits and vegetables are at least 85% water by weight, so they definitely contribute to your fluid needs when you’re eating recommended amounts, which most Americans don’t.

While I always encourage eating enough fruits and veggies, it would be challenging at best to meet all your water needs this way. Let’s say you managed to eat enough juicy produce to approximate your water needs — you would likely have little stomach room for the other foods that are important for good health. For example, the protein-containing foods that support your muscles and organs — including your liver and kidneys, which are responsible for taking care of any detoxing you need.

As for inflammation-lowering and immune-boosting claims, fruits and vegetables contain many antioxidants and phytochemicals that do play a role in both — there’s nothing special about the water in your produce. Oh, and if you want fewer bad bacteria, don’t skimp on water — eat a diet that provides the kinds of foods that good bacteria need to thrive. Fruit and vegetables are sources, but so are whole grains, beans, lentils, soy foods, nuts and seeds.

The bottom line? Yes, eat your fruits and veggies — but drink your water, too.