Fasting has long been linked to religious rituals, diets, and political protests.
In a new study from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, researchers found that routine periodic fasting is also good for your health, and your heart.
They found that fasting not only lowers one’s risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes, but also causes big changes in a person’s blood cholesterol levels.
Both diabetes and elevated cholesterol are known risk factors for coronary heart disease.
The discovery expands upon a 2007 Intermountain Healthcare study that revealed an association between fasting and reduced risk of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death among men and women in America.
In the new research, fasting was also found to reduce other cardiac risk factors, such as triglycerides, weight, and blood sugar levels.
Unlike the earlier research by the team, this new research recorded reactions in the body’s biological mechanisms during the fasting period.
The participants’ low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C, the “bad” cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C, the “good” cholesterol) both increased (by 14 percent and 6 percent, respectively) raising their total cholesterol — and catching the researchers by surprise.
The team says fasting causes hunger or stress. In response, the body releases more cholesterol, allowing it to utilize fat as a source of fuel, instead of glucose.
This decreases the number of fat cells in the body. This is important because the fewer fat cells a body has, the less likely it will experience insulin resistance, or diabetes.
This recent study also confirmed earlier findings of the effects of fasting on human growth hormone (HGH), a metabolic protein. HGH works to protect lean muscle and metabolic balance, a response triggered and accelerated by fasting.
During the 24-hour fasting periods, HGH increased an average of 1,300% in women, and nearly 2,000% in men.
In this most recent trial, researchers conducted two fasting studies of over 200 individuals — both patients and healthy volunteers — who were recruited at Intermountain Medical Center.
While the results were surprising to researchers, it’s not time to start a fasting diet just yet. It will take more studies like these to fully determine the body’s reaction to fasting and its effect on human health.
The team believes that fasting could one day be prescribed as a treatment for preventing diabetes and coronary heart disease.
If you care about fasting and your health, please read studies about this fasting diet may protect you from major chronic diseases and findings of fasting and calorie restriction may help prevent aging.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about these three things could save 94 million people from heart disease and results showing that these 7 things can tell your future heart disease, stroke risk.
The study was presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology. One author of the study is Dr. Benjamin D. Horne, PhD, MPH.
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