That said, there are a lot of benefits to fasting (or intermittent fasting, “IF”, as if is often referred to) that extend quite firmly into the physical sphere. Long considered the purview of the incense-and-nutritional-yeast crowd or filed under The Weird Things Hollywood Types Do, fasting is becoming more and more mainstream. And with good reason — recent research shows that this primitive survival technique actually has some impressive health benefits.
A study from the American Heart Association found that people who fasted were 39% less likely to have coronary artery disease. This study looked at a sample of 4500 men and women, 90% of whom were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (a.k.a. Mormons). Previously researchers had thought that Mormons’ lower risk of heart disease was due to the religious prohibition against smoking and drinking alcohol but researchers were surprised to find it most correlated to the monthly 24-hour fasts that adherents practice.
In addition to the heart benefits, Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple and guru of all things IF cites a study that showed, ““health benefits… in insulin resistance, asthma, seasonal allergies, infectious diseases of viral, bacterial and fungal origin (viral URI, recurrent bacterial tonsillitis, chronic sinusitis, periodontal disease), autoimmune disorder (rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis, symptoms due to CNS inflammatory lesions (Tourette’s, Meniere’s) cardiac arrhythmias (PVCs, atrial fibrillation), menopause related hot flashes.” Mark is so convinced of the benefits that he has made fasting one of the primary points of his Primal Blueprint and encourages everyone to try it. Many other studies support the health benefits of fasting including increased insulin sensitivity, faster healing from injury, cellular rejuvenation, decreased blood pressure, reduction in oxidative damage, less type 2 diabetes, less cancer, less cardiovascular disease, protection against heart disease and – the holy grail of health nuts – decreased fat mass. Who wouldn’t want all that awesomeness??