Fasting, which has long been associated with dieting and religious rituals, is good for you in a number of ways, say experts at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Utah. According to their study, which has just been presented at a conference of the American College of Cardiology, fasting can significantly change your cholesterol levels, as well as lower your risk of coronary artery disease, coronary heart disease and diabetes.
The study involved more than 200 volunteers who ate and drank nothing but water for 24 hours. By taking blood tests while the volunteers were fasting, the researchers discovered their cholesterol levels had increased, as had their level of human growth hormone, a protein that protects lean muscle and metabolic balance.
"Fasting causes hunger or stress,'" explains Dr Benjamin Horne, the study's lead researcher. "In response, the body releases more cholesterol, allowing it to utilise fat as a source of fuel instead of glucose. This decreases the number of fat cells in the body - and this is important because the fewer fat cells a body has, the less likely it will experience insulin resistance or diabetes."
Many wellbeing experts recommend a short period of fasting to help clear your body of toxins. And while the researchers aren't suggesting that everyone should start fasting right now, they do suggest that one day it could be a recommended treatment for preventing diabetes and heart disease.
Have you ever been on a fast or an extreme diet?