The impact of religious fasting on human health
ABSTRACT The past two decades have seen a rise in the number of investigations examining the health-related effects of religiously motivated fasts. Islamic Ramadan is a 28 - 30 day fast in which food and drink are prohibited during the daylight hours. The majority of health-specific findings related to Ramadan fasting are mixed. The likely causes for these heterogeneous findings are the differences between studies in the following: 1) the amount of daily fasting time; 2) the percentage of subjects who smoke, take oral medications, and/or receive intravenous fluids; and 3) the subjects' typical food choices and eating habits. Greek Orthodox Christians fast for a total of 180 - 200 days each year, and their main fasting periods are the Nativity Fast (40 days prior to Christmas), Lent (48 days prior to Easter), and the Assumption (15 days in August). The fasting periods are more similar than dissimilar, and they can each be described as a variant of vegetarianism. Some of the more favorable effects of these fasts include the lowering of body mass, total cholesterol, LDL-C, and the LDL-C/HDL-C ratio. The Biblical-based Daniel Fast prohibits the consumption of animal products, refined carbohydrates, food additives, preservatives, sweeteners, flavorings, caffeine, and alcohol. It is most commonly partaken for 21 days, although fasts of 10 and 40 days have been observed. Our initial investigation of the Daniel Fast noted favorable effects on several health-related outcomes, including: blood pressure, blood lipids, insulin sensitivity, and biomarkers of oxidative stress. This review summarizes the health-specific effects of these fasts and provides suggestions for future research.
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ABSTRACT: Circadian rhythms are certain periodic behaviours exhibited by living organism at different levels, including cellular and system-wide scales. Recent studies have found that the circadian rhythms of several peripheral organs in mammals, such as the liver, are able to entrain their clocks to received signals independent of other system level clocks, in particular when responding to signals generated during feeding. These studies have found SIRT1, PARP1, and HSF1 proteins to be the major influencers of the core CLOCKBMAL1:PER-CRY circadian clock. These entities, along with abstracted feeding induced signals were modelled collectively in this study using Petri Nets. The properties of the model show that the circadian system itself is strongly robust, and is able to continually evolve. The modelled feeding regimens suggest that the usual 3 meals/day and 2 meals/day feeding regimens are beneficial with any more or less meals/day negatively affecting the system.PLoS ONE 03/2015; 10(3):e0117519. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0117519 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: This study addressed the question whether the composition of supposedly 'healthy' or 'unhealthy' dietary regimes has a calorie-independent short-term effect on biomarkers of metabolic stress and vascular risk in healthy individuals. Healthy male volunteers (age 29.5 ± 5.9 years, n = 39) were given a standardized baseline diet for two weeks before randomization into three groups of different dietary regimes: fast food, Mediterranean and German cooking style. Importantly, the amount of calories consumed per day was identical in all three groups. Blood samples were analyzed for biomarkers of cardiovascular risk and metabolic stress after two weeks of the baseline diet and after two weeks of the assigned dietary regime. No dietary intervention affected the metabolic or cardiovascular risk profile when compared in-between groups or compared to baseline. Subjects applied to the Mediterranean diet showed a statistically significant increase of uric acid compared to baseline and compared to the German diet group. Plasma concentrations of urea were significantly higher in both the fast food group and the Mediterranean group, when compared to baseline and compared to the German diet group. No significant differences were detected for the levels of vitamins, trace elements or metabolic stress markers (8-hydroxy-2-deoxyguanosine, malondialdehyde and methylglyoxal, a potent glycating agent). Established parameters of vascular risk (e.g. LDL-cholesterol, lipoprotein(a), homocysteine) were not significantly changed in-between groups or compared to baseline during the intervention period. The calorie-controlled dietary intervention caused neither protective nor harmful short-term effects regarding established biomarkers of vascular or metabolic risk. When avoiding the noxious effects of overfeeding, healthy individuals can possess the metabolic capacity to compensate for a potentially disadvantageous composition of a certain diet.Nutrition research and practice 04/2015; 9(2):165-173. DOI:10.4162/nrp.2015.9.2.165 · 1.13 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Behavioural risk factors for chronic diseases involve factors relating to lifestyle habits. This study examined the relationship of religious and spiritual beliefs with the adoption and presence of multiple behavioural risk factors (MBRFs) in European adults. Cross-sectional study. Data were used from 16,557 individuals, aged 50+ years, participating in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (2004/05). MBRFs clustering was defined by high body weight, smoking, physical inactivity and risky alcohol consumption, and regression estimations with religiosity and prayer use were assessed based on sampling weights. In total, 79.4% of participants had received religious education, 33.4% had used prayer '≥1 time/day' and 53.3% had clustering of 2+ MBRFs. Lower prevalence of smoking was found in males (20.6% vs. 29.4%, P < 0.05), as well as in females (13.1% vs. 22.6%, P < 0.05), who prayed '≥1 time/day', compared to those who never prayed. Categorical regression analysis revealed that the presence of MBRFs was associated negatively with religious education (standardized beta = -0.048, P < 0.001) and positively with low frequency of prayer use (standardized beta = 0.056, P < 0.001). Having received religious education and prayer use were related to the presence of fewer MBRFs in European adults aged 50+ years. These lifestyle factors should be assessed as potential determinants of MBRFs adoption when examining chronic disease development in multicultural populations. Copyright © 2015 The Royal Society for Public Health. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Public Health 03/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.puhe.2015.02.006 · 1.48 Impact Factor