For most people, the act of fasting is mostly associated with faith or as a religious practice. In Christianity, Jesus Christ fasted for forty days and forty nights before the temptation of the devil. In Islam, the month of Ramadan is recognized as a month of fasting in remembrance of the Koran being revealed to Muslims. In Judaism, fasting is part of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Tisha B’Av.
However, is there any health benefits to fasting, or is it simply just a practice the three monotheistic religions partake in for their faith? Thanks to research, there are now reports showing there are very plausible benefits to fasting.
According to an article by Natural News, it reports that fasting activates the body’s “survival” mode causing its immune system to boost. Scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) discovered that fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly. They also suggest that the mechanism behind the phenomenon is that starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells, which of course fight off infection. In short, fasting flips on a “regenerative switch”.
It also reports that fasting does many other things to help the human body. First, the human body tries to save energy during fasting and one way to do that is the recycling of immune cells that are not needed, especially the damaged ones. This is very good for those who have an immune system damaged by chemotherapy or aging because fasting cycles can generate a new immune system literally. Also, fasting drive the “survival mode” of the human body in which stores of sugar and fat are used up as well as the breakdown of old cells.
Taking into account that stores of sugars and fat are used up during fasting, KSL reports that the health benefits of fasting actually helps with diabetes. In another research study at the Intermountain Medical Center’s Heart Institute in Utah, they point out that abstinence from food is a way to derail the potentially debilitating track of diabetes. Benjamin Horne, its director, had this to say about the study:
“Fasting has the potential to become an important diabetes intervention. The average benefit was interesting and big enough that we feel we have enough evident for a longer study.”
The study conducted found that periodic and regular fasting – for at least 12 hours and optimally at 20 hours – actually does exactly what was found in the first source which is stores of sugar and fat are used up along with the breakdown of cells. However, another note was added as the process involves the increased production of human growth hormone that can protect lean muscle mass, decrease insulin production, and avert diabetes.
Health benefits discovered are based on a short-term basis, and the long-term effects may actually be damaging if studied. The study also suggests that fasting to be talked with doctors first to avoid dehydration, malnutrition, excessive weight loss, and other potential damages to the body, especially to the heart.
Right now, scientists are trying to find out if fasting utilizes other sources of energy besides fat cells. Benjamin Horne hypothesizes (which I am sure most will hope for) that the cholesterol plague in narrowed arteries is also a source for cells during fasting. If true, this may be a benefit to counter the number one killer in the United States.
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