Thursday, January 3, 2008

Fasting Helps Church Members Live Longer

The American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2007 was the site of a presentation by Benjamin D. Horne, PhD, MPH of the University of Utah concerning the finding that once a month fasting practiced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) is associated with a reduction in the rate of coronary artery disease. Members of the church fast one day per month in addition to practicing such other habits as not smoking and abstaining from alcohol. Previous research found that members of the church in Utah are less likely to die of heart disease than other residents.

Dr Horne utilized data from participants in the Intermountain Heart Collaborative Study, which included men and women who had undergone coronary angiography between 1994 and 2002. Sixty-six percent of the non LDS participants demonstrated coronary artery disease, defined as a narrowing or blockage of at least 70 percent in one or more artery, compared with 61 percent of LDS members. “When we adjusted for smoking, or looked just at the nonsmokers, we still found a lower rate of CAD in people having an LDS religious preference,” Dr Horne said. “We thought this was very interesting, so we devised a survey about other behaviors associated with LDS that might bring a health benefit.”

“Fasting was the strongest predictor of lower heart disease risk in the people we surveyed. About 8 percent of the people who fasted did not express an LDS religious preference, and they also had less coronary disease,” Dr Horne stated. “When you abstain from food for 24 hours or so, it reduces the constant exposure of the body to foods and glucose. One of the major problems in the development of the metabolic syndrome and the pathway to diabetes is that the insulin-producing beta cells become desensitized. Routine fasting may allow them to resensitize — to reset to a baseline level so they work better.”



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