First it was the monks and their cancer-minimizing lifestyle. Now it’s the Mormons. The commandments put forth by their church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, decree that the first Sunday of every month be a day of fasting. Members go without food or water for two consecutive meals, taking the time to pray. The belief is that the temporary deprivation will strengthen the faster’s spirituality and bring him/her closer to God. In terms of religion, the act is extremely beneficial for the Mormons, and it seems that in terms of health, the same is true.
As a group, the Mormons have a significantly lower rate of heart disease when compared to the rest of the population. They are approximately 40 percent less likely to have clogged arteries and thus, less likely to suffer from a coronary heart attack. Originally, this statistical difference was attributed to the religion’s ban on smoking. However, when researchers examined all possible aspects, including the avoidance of alcohol, tea and coffee, and a weekly day of rest, it was found that only fasting showed a definitive connection to the followers’ healthier hearts. But before you cut out food, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Fasting is not a healthy choice for everyone. Diabetics and individuals with malnutrition, hepatic/renal insufficiency or a history of cardiac arrhythmias should not fast, as it could worsen their condition. Additionally, dieters may find that fasting actually derails their weight loss plan, since the lack of food slows the metabolism making the next day’s meals even more fattening. Besides, the specific benefits of fasting are still unclear. Researchers aren’t sure if it’s the fasting or the necessary control and discipline that help the Mormons. If you are considering fasting, make sure you are doing so for the right reasons and make sure you are doing so short-term. One day a month won’t hurt. Much more could.
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