February 22, 2010

Fasting Reduces Bad Cholesterol

Diet Religiously - Goodnews - Fasting Diet of Greek Orthodox Christians Found to Reduce Cholesterol Levels

Better Nutrition
Sept, 2003

It doesn't matter whether you're religious or not--even atheists can benefit from the "fasting" regime followed in the Greek Orthodox Church, according to a new study.

Strict Greek Orthodox Christians avoid specified foods three times a year: 40 days before Christmas, 48 days at Easter and 15 days in August for Assumption.

Each fast is associated with a different holiday. For example, at Christmas, the faithful are advised to avoid meat, eggs and dairy products, and eating fish is not allowed on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Since all other foods are permitted, this is not a fast in the traditional sense of avoiding all food. "The Orthodox Christians' diet, which is based on vegetables, legumes, fruit, cereals, bread and olive oil, is a Mediterranean-type diet with periodic abstinence from meat and other products during the fasting periods," the study states, as published in the May 16, 2003 issue of BMC Public Health, published by BioMedCentral.

University of Crete scientists discovered that those who followed the regimen to the letter had lower levels of total cholesterol and lower levels of the cholesterol-binding proteins called low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, in their blood after fasting.

Other Christians who did not follow the fasting regimen did not exhibit this lowering of "bad" cholesterol. Those who stuck to the temporary diet experienced no change in the blood levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol.

There is a clear, known link between high levels of cholesterol and LDL in the blood and heart disease, whereas HDL appears to be protective against heart disease. Greek Orthodox fasting reduced the levels of total cholesterol in the blood by 9 percent and the levels of LDL by 12 percent.

While the levels of HDL did not change significantly, the HDL/LDL ratio increased, which is considered healthy for the heart. Unfortunately, these levels rose again after the people who fasted resumed their normal diet--but not to the original levels. This suggests that regular fasting may give some long-term protection against heart disease.