Fasting: What are the health benefits?

By 14. March 2014Blog, Health

With the traditional fasting period of Lent upon us before the big Easter egg gorge we decided to take a look at some various forms of fasting and what the scientists say are the consequences.

First of all, what is fasting? Fasting, according to the Oxford English Dictionary is “the abstinence from food” but some other sources also include the abstinence of drink. Some allow drinking only water while others allow tea and coffee.

The first publication we will look at is a one day fast with the drinking of water permitted. The paper, published in the Journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases in November last year looked into the metabolic and cardiovascular consequences of fasting for 24 hours.

They found that after the 24 hours human growth hormone, haemoglobin, red blood cell count, hematocrit, total cholesterol and high density lipoprotein cholesterol all increased, while triglycerides, bicarbonate and weight decreased.

After 48 hours, most of the above had returned to baseline levels with the exception of weight and triglyceride levels. High levels of triglycerides in the blood can increase the chances of heart diease and strokes so this reduction can be seen as something positive. The researchers suggest that the long term consequences of repeated short term fasting should be looked into in more detail.

The paper is available from the Sciencedirect website.