I adhere to a certain practice on such a regular basis that my family has resigned themselves to residing with someone that exhibits what they consider to be quirky, if not downright bizarre behavior. No, it’s not that ‘certain practice’. Now it turns out I’m not so loony after all:
A study of 4500 men and women who fast on a regular basis revealed that they were less likely to be diagnosed with coronary artery disease than those patients who do not fast. Those who fast were 39% less likely to have the disease, defined as the discovery of a significant narrowing of at least one coronary artery, usually found during a cardiac catherization procedure. Although the researchers did not quantify the fasting practices of the study group, it is common knowledge that they fast for at least 24 hours once a month. How did they know this? Almost all of the population studied were Mormons.
Though more than 90% of the people studied were Mormons, the findings held true even in those who had a different religious preference, says Benjamin D. Horne, PhD, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City.
The researchers did not put any time frame on fasting, but Horne notes that “among [Mormons], religious teachings involve fasting on the first Sunday of every month for 24 hours.”
As far as my personal habits go, I like to exercise when I get home from work. After a good aerobic workout I typically lose my appetite, therefore I skip dinner – for example, yesterday I fasted for ten hours, broken by a delicious bedtime snack (which probably is killing me softly with its love and calories, but that’s another story). My family, especially the dog, looks at me like I just got up and danced the Macarena during Holy Communion, but I don’t care. I’ve learned to ignore their catty remarks, and now Dr. Benjamin D. Horne agrees with my new commitment to good health.
[Dr. Horne] says that fasting could be a marker for eating less in general. Very low-calorie diets have been shown to extend longevity in several studies. Or fasting itself may lower the risk of heart disease through some undiscovered biological mechanism, he says.
The study authors took note of other influential habits that the patients practiced, such as not smoking or drinking, but I am not privy to any conclusions as to how the results were affected.
Before tossing the contents of your overstuffed fridge into the nearest dumpster, however, it would be prudent to listen to these comments:
AHA past president Sidney Smith, MD, a heart doctor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, says he would be very reluctant to make sweeping recommendations about the benefits of fasting without more information about the dietary practices of the people studied.
“It’s not clear how other populations [that don't follow the same strict practices as Mormons with regard to eating, smoking, and drinking] would handle fasting. It could even be harmful.”
Yes, it could be harmful, but given the state of obesity in this country I encourage our more intrepid scientists to conduct a controlled study on the effects of fasting as part of a weight-loss program. If Mormons are found to be practicing a healthy habit, I would think our fatuous friends in the mainstream media would fawn at the chance to bloviate on this topic – all in the name of “news you can use,” of course.