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Heart Disease Health Center

Periodic Fasting May Cut Risk of Heart Disease, Diabetes

Despite Health Benefits, Fasting May Not Be for Everyone, Doctors Say
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Blood Fat Levels Measured During Fasts continued...

“Your body goes into self-protection mode to preserve the integrity of cells and tissue until food starts coming in again, so it uses fats instead of glucose for fuel,” Horne says.

The increase in total cholesterol may just be transient.

“It appears that the total cholesterol has gone up because the liver is not processing as much cholesterol and instead it is being dumped into the bloodstream to be used as fuel,” he says.

“We need to answer a lot of questions to be able to connect all these dots,” he says.

“We know from our tests that these patients had a lower prevalence of diabetes and coronary disease and now we are backing up to see the mechanism,” he says.

Do Juice Fasts Count?

Many so-called “fasts”  -- such as "juice" fasts --  are widely promoted on the Internet.

Comparing the water-only fasts to these juice fasts is apples to oranges, Horne says.

“These juice fasts and cleanses could have a similar effect to caloric restriction,” he says. “In animal studies, reducing the amount of daily calories by 40% to 50% has a benefit on your heart, but it is not as strong of a benefit as [water-only] fasting,” he says.

“Fasting is not a quick fix, it’s a long-term lifestyle that you integrate into your normal life and do it for the duration,” says Horne, who says he fasts once a month.

Fasting is not for everyone. “There are some dangers for people that are at high risk for other conditions, women who are pregnant or lactating, and young children,” he says.

Other Views

Howard Weintraub, MD, clinical director of the Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, says that the findings of elevated LDL and total cholesterol in the face of reduced heart and diabetes risk warrant further investigation.

“We need a lot more information about this,” he says.

The new study “tells us that we eat too much and we don’t need to eat quite so much,” he says.  But “before I start advising my patients to fast, I need to see more information as to the other attributes of these study participants,” he says.

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