Post festive fasting could it help your heart

January 5, 2008

With all the food we eat over the festive period, and much of it not too healthy, it may be time to try an ancient method of health care – fasting. New research reported in the American Heart Association™ Scientific Sessions in November 2007 seems to indicate that people who skip meals once a month are 40%less likely to have clogged arteries as those who do not fast on a regular basis.

This data was collected as a result of work done in Utah, where about 70 percent of the population are Mormons, who fast during the first Sunday of each month as part of their religious observance. The study was undertaken after researchers discovered that only 61% of Mormons had heart disease compared with 66% of non-Mormons. After surveying 515 people about Mormon’s typical religious practices, which included a weekly day of rest, not drinking alcohol or smoking, donating time and money to charity, avoiding tea and coffee, and monthly fasting, only fasting made a significant difference in heart risk.

Only 59 percent of those who skipped meals regularly were diagnosed with heart disease, compared with 67 percent of non- fasters. The researchers suggested that periodic fasting forces your body to burn fat and also gives it a break from making insulin to metabolise sugar. Fasting for one day a month may therefore help to re-sensitise insulin-producing cells and make them work better.

However, fasting does not work for everyone, and in fact can be counterproductive for some. If your diet consists of fast food, junk food and other processed items that are high in sugar and grains, then not eating those foods for a period will likely cause improvements to your health. This is because this type of diet is causing surges in your insulin and levels, and even giving your body a break from this cycle temporarily will be beneficial.

This is the principle that calorie restricted diets work on, because reducing calories definitely helps to slow down aging, reduce chronic diseases and even extend your lifespan. When you restrict your calories, as you do during fasting, it reduces your metabolic rate and oxidative stress, lowers your insulin levels and improves insulin sensitivity.

BUT, if you are already eating healthy foods designed for your nutritional type, then you will probably not experience benefits, and may even have some problems, such as hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Fasting seems to work best for those who thrive on a high-carbohydrate diet such as vegetarians and those who nutritionally thrive best with a high-protein diet don’t do nearly as well on a fasting regime.

Is there a middle way? Well, yes there is now increasing evidence that you’re actually better off on the ‘little and often’ diet plan where you nibble and graze small amounts frequently throughout the day. Eating small amounts of healthy foods at regular, frequent, intervals has been found to lower cholesterol, reduce appetite, and cause the least amount of disturbance to your body’s natural balance.


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