For centuries, people have fasted in the name of religion, weight loss or protest. Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute recently revealed that the practice not only leads to weight loss, but could also improve cardiovascular health.
In their study, the team of scientists found that people who fasted for sporadic 24-hour periods had lower levels of blood triglycerides, body fat and glucose than their counterparts who did not skip meals.
The researchers said that fasting causes the body to release cholesterol, which, counterintuitively, reduces body fat.
"Fasting causes hunger or stress. In response, the body releases more cholesterol, allowing it to utilize fat as a source of fuel, instead of glucose. This decreases the number of fat cells in the body," said lead researcher Benjamin D. Horne, Ph.D.
Study authors noted that a decrease in fat cells means more than reduced flab. It also reduces the chance of becoming resistant to insulin, which is a major cause of diabetes.
Additionally, fasting causes human growth hormone levels to rise, providing protection for lean muscle mass.