Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Fasting May Help Protect the Heart

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Fasting May Help Protect the Heart

Article excerpt

Scientists have long recognized that Mormons may be less likely to die of heart disease than other Americans. The religious prohibition against tobacco use was typically credited as being the impetus behind this health benefit. However, other religious teachings might also important. A team of researchers from the Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, presented their findings at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions in November 2007.

Benjamin D. Home, Ph.D., M.P.H., Director of Cardiovascular and Genetic Epidemiology at the center and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, explained that people who fast seem to receive a heart-protective benefit. (Fasting was defined as abstaining from food and drink for two consecutive meals.) This advantage also held true in non-Mormons who fasted as part of a health-conscious lifestyle.

Researchers first examined the records of the Intermountain Heart Collaborative Study Registry, which was composed of nearly 5,000 patients who had undergone coronary angiography between 1994 and 2002. They reviewed x-ray films of the heart's blood vessels to look for blockages.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) was defined as at least a 70 percent narrowing or blockage detected in at least one artery. A patient was classified as being free of CAD if there was less than 10 percent narrowing or blockage. As expected, CAD was less prevalent in patients who identified themselves as Mormons than those who stated another religion or no religious preference. Sixty-one percent of Mormons had CAD, compared with 66 percent of others. Even when the scientists adjusted for smoking by looking only at non-smokers, they still found a lower rate of CAD in Mormons.

Dr. Home then devised a survey about other behaviors that might bring a health benefit. Questions included religious preference as well as several practices encouraged by the Mormon Church. These included fasting; not smoking; not drinking tea, coffee, or alcohol; observing a weekly day of rest; attending worship services; and donating time, goods, or money to charity.

In the second part of the study, 515 patients (average age, 64 years) who underwent coronary angiography between 2004 and 2006 completed a survey. Of this group, those who fasted (59 percent) were significantly less likely to be have CAD than those who did not fast (67 percent). …

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