Fasting for 24 hours 'may cut your risk of heart disease and diabetes'
By Fiona Macrae
Last updated at 2:07 AM on 5th April 2011
The 30 volunteers fasted for 24 hours and only drank water. This encouraged the body to start burning up fat cells (posed)
Regularly going a day without food may reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, research has suggested.
Doctors studied the health and habits of more than 200 residents in the state of Utah, where fasting for at least one day a month is a way of life for many Mormons.
X-ray scans revealed narrowing of the arteries in around 75 per cent of those who didn’t fast. In contrast, clogged arteries affected 63 per cent of those who said they often skipped meals.
Fasting also appeared to more than halve the odds of diabetes, the American College of Cardiology’s conference heard.
To ensure the results were not only due to those who fast having healthier lifestyles, the researchers carried out a second study on people who were not regular fasters.
They did not eat or drink anything other than water for 24 hours and underwent a series of health checks. They were also monitored while eating normally.
The tests revealed fasting triggers a significant surge in human growth hormone, a hormone credited with speeding up metabolism and burning off fat.
Levels rose 13-fold in women and 20-fold in men. Shedding fat is known to cut the risk of diabetes and related heart problems.
The fasting caused levels of cholesterol to rise but they returned to normal after the fast was over.
Doctors stressed that more research is needed before fasting can be prescribed to patients.
Nutritionist Dr Emma Williams said: ‘I wouldn’t be in a hurry to commence fasting, as the precise nature by which the body reacts to it remains relatively unknown.’