Monday, December 10, 2007


Diabetics probably shouldn't. however.

Several months ago, I read this article about the benefits of fasting. These are:

  1. it provides your pancreas and liver a chance to "rest,"
  2. it forces the body to consume the body's fat reserves since carbohydrates aren't available,
  3. psychologically, it encourages reflection on what it means to go hungry and on one's good fortune to be able to eat at will, and
  4. for many people, it brings a feeling of tranquility.

The pancreas and liver, two of our seven vital organs, produce essential chemicals that allow the body to convert food into fuel the body can use.

The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes (including the all-important insulin) that metabolize food. The liver, you may know, is our body's primary chemical factory. One of its primary roles is to assist the metabolism of food. What is metabolism? It's the set of chemical reactions that maintain life. Digestion is one of them.

This week, I came across an article about a scientific study that confirms that Mormons benefit from fasting. Mormons belong to the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). The scientists who conducted the study presented their results at a recent American Heart Association conference.The Mormon church encourages believers to abstain from food on the first Sunday of each month. The study found that Mormons have less heart disease (about 40 percent are less likely to be diagnosed with clogged arteries than those who did not regularly fast).

Muslims enjoy this benefit too. During the month of Ramadan, except under certain circumstances, Muslims may eat or drink nothing, including water, while the sun shines. They feast before dawn and then again after dusk.

Regardless of religious beliefs, it appears that regularly taking breaks from food helps improve the odds to develop clogged arteries.

NPR (National Public Radio) ran a recent article entitled "Retune the Body with a Partial Fast." I've quoted and then summarized it below.
For thousands of years, beginning with philosophers like Hippocrates, Socrates and Plato, fasting was recommended for health reasons. The Bible writes that Moses and Jesus fasted for 40 days for spiritual renewal.

To understand how the body reacts to a lack of food, you could start by looking at what happens to newborns. Newborns can't sleep through the night because they need to eat every few hours. They don't produce enough glycogen, the body's form of stored sugar, to make energy.

Glycogen is necessary for thinking; it's necessary for muscle action; it's necessary just for the cells to live in general
Most endocrinologists think that fasting doesn't hurt the body and may, in fact, help it by resetting its digestive mechanisms.
Endocrinologists are specialists that diagnose diseases that affect our glands. Glands are the organs that make hormones. Hormones control reproduction, metabolism, growth, and development. They also control the way we instinctively respond to stimuli and help regulate the amount of energy and nutrition our bodies need.
These mechanisms make the digestion possible. The primary internal organs that are involved are the pancreas and the liver.

Fasting suppresses insulin secretion and, ultimately, reduces our craving for sugar. During a fast, the body burns up stored sugars, or glycogen. Since less insulin is required to digest food, it rests the pancreas.

There are two additional benefits to fasting:
  1. Digestion creates free radicals as a byproduct. Free radicals are one of the primary causes of cancer, oncologists believe. Free radicals attack proteins, our DNA, the nucleus and membranes of our cells.
  2. Reducing our calorie intake, especially as we age, seems to reduce the incidence of disease. Lab studies of rats and mice, at least, confirm that.
Oncologists are specialists who study, diagnose, and treat cancerous tumors. Cancer is a catch-all term for the diseases in which cells multiply abnormally. These cells run amok, if you will. They do not follow the life cycle of normal cells.

Incidentally, do you know why cancer is called that? The Greeks named it. Cancer has afflicted mankind since time immemorial. The Greeks observed that it was impossible to remove cancer once someone developed it. It was as tenacious as a crab. It wouldn't let go. Cancer is the crab.
All told, it seems there are more side benefits associated with fasting. I encourage you to read the article.

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