Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Is fasting good for your health?

Published:Tuesday | June 9, 2015 | 12:00 AMDr Douglas Street, Contributor

It is said that 'belief kills and belief cures'. This highlights the impact that beliefs, even religious ones, have on our health, and this can be positive or negative. There are many religious practices that can have positive effects on, not just spiritual health, but our physical health as well. It has been found that fasting is one such practice.

Fasting is a practice of restriction of ingestion of physical sustenance. There are variations in how it is practised ranging from total abstinence of food, water, and drinks to reduction in certain types of sustenance (e.g. a liquid fast). It is usually done to enhance the worship experience in different religions.

It is not unusual, though, for certain practices associated with some religious groups to have a positive impact on health. For example, Seventh-day Adventists have been shown to live longer, healthier lives. Scientific studies have found that fasting can have beneficial effects on one's health. The type that is most recommended as intermittent fasting such as a 5/2 format, that is, fasting two days per week, not necessarily consecutive days. Another way is to fast daily for 16-18 hours.


Many benefits


Intermittent fasting may have many health benefits. It has been shown to reduce inflammation, improve glucose metabolism, reduce lipids, and lower blood pressure. These benefits may even be seen without any overall reduction in calorie intake. Not surprisingly, intermittent fasting has been shown to be an effectively method of weight loss, even in the severely obese and for those who find it difficult to lose weight.

Intermittent fasting has also been found to slow progression to diabetes. It seems to help the body become more responsive to insulin. Reduced responsiveness to insulin is one of the precursors to diabetes. As result of this, the body's production of insulin is reduced as it will require a smaller amount to do its job.

Improved cardiovascular health is another benefit of intermittent fasting. This is probably the cumulative effect of improved glucose metabolism, improve lipid levels, reduced blood pressure, and reduced inflammation. There even seems to be an improvement in lifespan and reduction of cancer rates as well.

It's very important to remember, however, that this diet is not suitable to all persons, especially diabetics. Persons with any medical condition, especially those on medication, should consult with their physician to ensure it is safe for them.