In a couple of days Jews around the world will be fasting on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On Oct. 4, the first Sunday of the month, Mormons or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) will be fasting as they do on the first Sunday of every month.
Do you have a practice of fasting for one meal or once a month or during daylight hours for a week? What do you gain from fasting? How does it affect your life and your mood? Do you do it so you will live longer or be happier?
A 2011 study in Physiology & Behavior entitled “Efficacy of fasting calorie restriction on quality of life among aging men” noted, “Calorie restriction has been promoted to increase longevity. Previous studies have indicated that calorie restriction can negatively affect mood and therefore the effect of calorie restriction on mood and quality of life becomes crucial when considering the feasibility of calorie restriction in humans. We conducted a three month clinical trial on calorie restriction (reduction of 300 to 500 kcal/day) combined with two days/week of Muslim sunnah fasting. ” In the study researchers checked several variables including body composition measurements, quality of life questionnaires, sleep quality, and depression indexes . This is what they found, “The Muslim sunnah fasting group had a significant reduction in body weight, BMI, body fat percentage and depression. The energy component of quality of life was significantly increased in the Muslim sunnah fasting group. There were no significant changes in sleep quality and stress level between the groups as a result of the intervention.” They concluded, “Muslim sunnah fasting resulted in body weight and fat loss and alleviated depression with some improvement in the quality of life.”
There are many food restrictions or encouragements associated with faith traditions. Sometimes these food traditions become like comfort food. We remember the foods we ate in community as children. Sometimes, what is memorable is fasting or what we don’t eat. Some of these traditions carry health benefits which are physical or emotional.
A 2015 systematic review in the America Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted, “Clinical research studies of fasting with robust designs and high levels of clinical evidence are sparse in the literature. Whereas the few randomized controlled trials and observational clinical outcomes studies support the existence of a health benefit from fasting, substantial further research in humans is needed before the use of fasting as a health intervention can be recommended.”
The study looks at the physical health benefits because, “two observational clinical outcomes studies in humans were found in which fasting was associated with a lower prevalence of coronary artery disease or diabetes diagnosis.”
So there are some established benefits of fasting on physical health as well as emotional health. What will you be eating this month?
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