Fasting May Reduce Your Risk For CAD

Foregoing food for a day each month stood out
among other religious practices in members of
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
(LDS or Mormons), who have lower rates of heart
dis-ease than other Americans, researchers reported
at the American Heart Association’s Scientific
Sessions 2007.

“People who fast seem to receive a heart-protective
benefit, and this appeared to also hold true in
non-LDS people who fast as part of a health-conscious
lifestyle,” said Benjamin D. Horne, Ph.D., M.P.H.,
study author and director of cardiovascular and
genetic epidemiology at Intermountain Medical Center
and adjunct assistant professor of biomedical
informatics at the University of Utah in
Salt Lake City.

In the 1970s, scientists recognized that
Latter-Day Saints (LDS) in Utah are less likely
to die of heart dis-ease than other Utah residents
and Americans overall. The religious prohibition
against tobacco use is usually credited for the
health benefit, but researchers wondered whether
other religious teachings also may be important.

Researchers first examined the records of the
Intermountain Heart Collaborative Study registry
comprised of patients who had undergone coronary
angiography, an X-ray examination of the blood
vessels of the heart to look for blockages,
between 1994 and 2002. Of those patients, 4,629
men and women, average age 64, could clearly be
diagnosed either with coronary artery disease
(CAD) — which is at least 70 percent narrowing or
blockage detected in at least one artery, or as
free of significant CAD — less than 10 percent
narrowing or blockage. As expected, CAD was less
prevalent in patients who identified their religious
preference as LDS than those who stated another or
no religious preference. Sixty-one percent of LDS
members had CAD versus 66 percent of others.

“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,”
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.”

In the second part of the study, 515 patients
(average age 64) who underwent coronary angiography
between 2004 and 2006, completed a survey that
included religious preference as well as several
specific practices encouraged by the LDS church:
not smoking; fasting (abstaining from food and
drink for two consecutive meals); not drinking tea,
coffee or alcohol; observing a weekly day of rest;
attending worship services; and donating time,
goods or money to charity.

Of this group, those who fasted were significantly
less likely to be diagnosed with CAD (59 percent
had 70 percent or greater blockage) than those who
did not fast (67 percent had 70 percent or greater
blockage).

“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,” Horne said.

Patients who did not drink tea were also less
likely to be diagnosed with CAD, but once fasting
was considered the finding wasn’t significant,
Horne noted.

Fasting was associated with lower odds of being
diagnosed with CAD by 39 percent. When the researchers
compared only those diagnosed with CAD with those
who had minimal or no coronary disease (less
than 10 percent blockage), the impact of fasting
was even more striking, with the odds of a CAD
diagnosis being lower by 45 percent.

“When you abstain from food for 24 hours or so,
it reduces the constant exposure of the body to
foods and glucose,” he said. “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.”

The researchers looked separately at people
with diabetes, who are not encouraged to skip
meals, and found the same association of
fasting and healthier arteries in both those
with diabetes and those without diabetes.

“One exciting thing is that the study could
be replicated in the general population and
in other locations in the United States,
including people without an LDS preference
who fast for various philosophical or health
reasons,” Horne said.

The study is limited because it is not a
randomized or controlled trial, and it only
includes people who had sufficient symptoms
to undergo coronary angiography, the gold
standard assessment for CAD. Also, there
could be other factors associated with
fasting that are the actual causes of the
reduced degree of coronary stenosis seen
in this study.

“Bottom line when you reduce an acidic lifestyle
and diet you simply reduce your risk for CAD,
and when you eliminate an acidic lifestyle and
diet you eliminate your risk for CAD,”
according to Dr. Robert O. Young, a research
scientist at the pH Miracle Living Center.

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