About 70 percent of Utah’s population are Mormons, who fast during the first Sunday of each month.
Religion, however, was not behind the benefits of fasting. Even non-Mormons who skipped food occasionally were less likely to have clogged arteries.
The study came about after researchers discovered that only 61 percent of Mormons had heart disease compared with 66 percent of non-Mormons. After surveying 515 people about Mormon’s typical religious practices, which included a weekly day of rest, not drinking alcohol or smoking, donating time and money to charity, avoiding tea and coffee, and monthly fasting, only fasting made a significant difference in heart risk.
Only 59 percent of those who skipped meals regularly were diagnosed with heart disease, compared with 67 percent of non-fasters.
The researchers suggested that periodic fasting forces your body to burn fat and also gives it a break from making insulin to metabolize sugar. Fasting may therefore help to resensitize insulin-producing cells and make them work better.
- American Heart Association™ Scientific Sessions November 2007 Orlando, Florida
The key to answering these questions are found in Nutritional Typing and understanding insulin physiology.
If your diet consists of fast food, junk food and other processed items that are high in sugar and grains, then not eating those foods for a period will likely cause improvements to your health. This is because this type of diet is causing surges in your insulin and leptin levels, and even giving your body a break from this cycle temporarily will be beneficial.
This is the premise by which calorie restriction has been found to slow down aging, reduce chronic diseases and even extend your lifespan. When you restrict your calories, as you do during fasting, it reduces your metabolic rate and oxidative stress, lowers your insulin levels and improves insulin sensitivity.
On the other hand, if you are eating healthy foods designed for your nutritional type, then you will probably not experience benefits, and may even have some problems, such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Additionally it has been my experience that those who are carb nutritional types (who can eat a largely vegetarian diet) tend to do much better overall with fasting, while protein types (who require large amounts of protein and fat) don’t fare nearly as well.
I am a very strong protein type and don’t feel that fasting is appropriate for me because of the way it makes me feel. My insulin levels are also in a very healthy range.
There is also increasing evidence that you’re actually better off nibbling and grazing throughout the day rather than even “fasting” between meals. Eating small amounts of healthy foods frequently throughout the day has been found to lower cholesterol, reduce appetite, and cause the least amount of disturbance to your body’s natural balance.
Of course, our ancestors did fast on occasion when food was scarce, so it may be possible that our bodies are designed to benefit from an occasional bout with little or no food.
While most of us have access to food at all times, it is common that we may not have access to HIGH-QUALITY food. In this circumstance, if your option is to eat only highly processed junk food then it is probably far better for you to fast than to eat that type of garbage.
So while I don’t recommend planned fasts, you can certainly fast like our ancestors did: when there are not viable options for food available.
Again, “food” in this circumstance means real, whole, nutrient-rich foods. So if you are traveling and find yourself without a healthy food option, this is the perfect opportunity to fast. Simply skip the fast food and get back on track when you’re able to find something to eat that’s good for your body.
If you have a hard time resisting the temptation to eat junk foods (a common challenge, especially if others are eating them around you), remember that you can always use the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to release your unhealthy food cravings.