Fasting for Life: Medical Proof Fasting Reduces Risk of Heart Disease, Cancer, and Diabetes - Francis E. Umesiri (2016)

Part 1. The Science of Fasting

Chapter 1. WHY FASTING MATTERS

The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.

—FAMED INVENTOR THOMAS EDISON 1

AS A MEDICINAL CHEMIST, COLLEGE PROFESSOR, and medical writer, I am not only passionate about the field of scientific discovery, but also about communicating key discoveries that will benefit the public. This is even truer when a particular scientific finding appears to validate centuries-old spiritual disciplines. I write this book, therefore, with a sense of responsibility: a responsibility to share with you interesting biomedical discoveries that—if you act on them—can literally reduce your risk of falling victim to various chronic diseases.

Several years ago I read a fascinating article in the leading journal Science. It referenced ongoing research in the area of fasting (what scientists call “caloric restriction” or “intermittent fasting”). The findings immediately caught my attention. Although in the past I had fasted regularly for many years, I gradually had stopped. Like most Americans, I found it harder to skip a meal or two in order to focus on God. Now, jolted by news of the promising prospects of fasting, I initiated a thorough review of scientific research covering the previous seven decades. I reviewed a number of original and peer-reviewed articles published in highly regarded journals. The sheer volume of credible research pointing to the immense health benefits of fasting—meaning sustained reduction in energy intake—overwhelmed me. The results staring me in the face forced me to change my habits. Returning to my roots, I resumed intermittent fasting.

Next, the medical writer in me took over. I wondered why so many people seemed unaware of these studies. I came away convinced that now is the time to help the public become aware of fasting’s health benefits. In this book I will share basic facts about these benefits, as documented in highly reputable, peer-reviewed journals (peer-reviewed literature being the gold standard for scientific and academic writings). Some of those studies were funded by the National Institute on Aging, an arm of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

What you will read in the pages that follow are pure scientific facts. No hype. No exaggerations. This is not a faddish diet or weight-loss program. I am a medicinal chemist, not a dietician. I am confident that, given the raw scientific facts in reasonably understandable language, people will make up their own minds and apply such facts accordingly. Studies in this area are still ongoing. Still, almost every bit of credible research on animal models (from rats to monkeys), as well as humans, has shown a significant improvement in the ability of fasting to reduce the risk of such major diseases as cancer, diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases—in some cases, by reductions of up to 50 percent.

I have chosen to highlight relatively few articles while still demonstrating the scientific proof of fasting’s benefits. Instead of an exhaustive list, these highlighted articles are only representative of the vast scope of material published on this topic.

My hope is that this book will serve as a catalyst and spur you to action. After all, heart attack, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease represent serious, deadly diseases. Their presence has grown to such alarming proportions in the Western world that it demands we take all the preventive efforts we can muster.

The big three

Let’s look at three of the aforementioned diseases: diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

• Diabetes is a huge problem—so huge that no one should take it for granted.

According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on diabetes, 9.3 percent of Americans (29.1 million persons) are affected by diabetes.2 Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, nontraumatic lower limb amputations, and new cases of blindness among adults in the United States. Also a major cause of heart disease and stroke, diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the nation. There is a tendency to read such statistics and simply wave your hand, guessing it somehow will not strike you. While I wish that everyone reading these words would not be affected by the devastating effects of this disease, it is important that each person take preventive steps to avoid contracting it. Fasting can definitely help.

• Cardiovascular (heart) diseases are the leading killer in the United States.

The World Health Organization (WHO) affirms that heart disease and associated cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one cause of death both in this country and across the world. About 17.5 million people died from CVDs in 2012, representing 31 percent of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.4 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million were due to stroke.3 The WHO projects that by the year 2030, the number of people who die annually from CVDs will surpass 23 million. The good news is that you can reduce your risk for this killer disease through fasting. It is such an encouraging, and yet simple, prescription that I feel a sense of duty to share some of the ongoing scientific results. While fasting is not a “cure all” panacea, it can provide significant benefits in the fight against heart disease.

• Cancer is the second-worst killer, one you must avoid at all costs.

The American Cancer Society estimated that in 2015, more than 1.6 million new cancer cases would be diagnosed, with more than 589,000 Americans projected to die from cancer, or more than 1,600 people per day.4 One of every four deaths in the United States is a result of some form of cancer. While there is no “bulletproof ” method for preventing cancer, studies strongly suggest that fasting can significantly reduce one’s risks of contracting this disease. Considering how ravaging this disease can be, any meaningful steps to prevent or reduce the risks are certainly worth trying.

As a result of the far-reaching nature of these diseases, I will focus on discussing some of the health benefits of fasting in relation to the major chronic diseases: diabetes, coronary heart failure, stroke, memory loss (including Alzheimer’s disease), and cancer. It is my hope that you study this material with an open mind; consult the publications referenced here as a starting point to further investigate this for yourself.

If these health benefits represented all there is to fasting, they would still be amazing. However, as a Christian who understands the spiritual implications of fasting, these studies made it all the more imperative for me to take this subject seriously. Fasting has tremendous benefits to the soul, a fact all major religions have long acknowledged (and practiced). To get the maximum benefits from fasting, I suggest that you approach it from a holistic view—spirit, soul, and body. Because of this, I included a section on fasting as a spiritual discipline and from a Christian perspective. The Bible has a lot to say about fasting and its possible role in spiritual renewal.