Fasting has traditionally been associated with religious rituals and diets, but new evidence from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute demonstrates that periodic fasting is good for your cardio system and general health.
The new findings, presented at the annual American College of Cardiology, show that fasting not only lowers one's risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes, but also causes significant changes in a person's blood cholesterol levels. The discovery adds weight to a 2007 study that revealed an association between fasting and reduced risk of coronary heart disease. In the new research, fasting was also found to reduce other cardiac risk factors, such as triglycerides, weight, and blood sugar levels.
"The confirmation among a new set of patients that fasting is associated with lower risk of these common diseases raises new questions about how fasting itself reduces risk or if it simply indicates a healthy lifestyle," said principal researcher Dr. Benjamin D. Horne.
Interestingly, the new study showed that, during the fasting period, the participants' low-density lipoprotein cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) both increased (by 14 percent and 6 percent, respectively) raising total cholesterol. "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," explained Horne. "This is important because the fewer fat cells a body has, the less likely it will experience insulin resistance, or diabetes."
The study also confirmed earlier findings about the effects of fasting on human growth hormone (HGH). During the 24-hour fasting periods, HGH increased an average of 1,300 percent in women, and nearly 2,000 percent in men.
The researchers caution that it's not time to start a fasting diet just yet, however. "It will take more studies like these to fully determine the body's reaction to fasting and its effect on human health," said Horne, who believes that fasting could one day be prescribed as a treatment for preventing diabetes and coronary heart disease.
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Source: Intermountain Medical Center