Take a Break from Eating

Fasting reduces risk of coronary heart disease and diabetes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) How can not eating food be healthy, you ask? Well, new research shows that fasting may be good for your heart and diabetics.

Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center found that fasting for a day reduces the risk of diabetes and coronary heart disease - the most common cause of death among adults in the United States. A 24-hour fast also significantly changes a person's blood cholesterol levels.

As diabetes and high cholesterol increase a person's risk of a variety of heart problems, including coronary heart disease, these findings have the potential to protect people against deadly diseases.

"Fasting can be good for your heart and diabeties."

In a previous study, Intermountain researchers found a link between fasting and a lower risk of coronary heart disease. According to Dr. Benjamin D. Horne, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, the new study shows that this past finding was not just a fluke.

However, he adds, the new findings raise questions about how fasting reduces the risk of common diseases like diabetes and coronary heart disease.

For their study, the researchers looked at biological changes in the body's of 300 people while they fasted. During the fasting period, participants experienced increases in levels of both "good" and "bad" cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol).

Dr. Horne explains that fasting causes hunger and stress. The body responds to this stress by releasing more cholesterol, which lets it use fat as a fuel source instead of sugar (glucose).

The amount of fat cells in the body is reduced when fat is used as a fuel source. A person's risk of developing diabetes is reduced as the number of fat cells in the body grows smaller.

In addition lowering the risk of diabetes and coronary heart disease, fasting also reduced other risks to heart health, such as triglycerides, weight, and levels of blood sugar.

The study's authors warn that it's not quite time for everyone to start fasting. More studies are needed to see if fasting has other effects on the body.

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Review Date: 
April 4, 2011
Last Updated:
April 5, 2011