Fasting has many benefits for the heart, cholesterol and weight

greek fasting food

Cardiovascular health gains can be made for those who follow fasting for Lent.

According to Duane Mellor, Head of Evidence-Based Medicine and Nutrition at the School of Medicine at Aston University in Birmingham, adherence to religious traditions may have benefits beyond spiritual growth, according to an article in The Conversation.

So, in addition to ensuring better mental health through church attendance, believers who observe the Lenten fast can reduce cardiovascular (heart) risk. They need to pay attention to one important detail, though.

Lowered cholesterol

Mellor and his research team analysed data on Orthodox Christian fasting diets and their effects on health indicators. They also studied the impact on the health of Muslims from the "intermittent fasting" observed during Ramadan and found a significant reduction in blood pressure and body weight.

Fasting was associated with a significant reduction in cholesterol levels. According to Mellor, the explanation may be given by the dietary pattern of Lent, in which fat consumption is reduced, and fibre intake is increased compared to the usual diet. In addition, it was also associated with weight loss.

Mellor said, "Fasting among Orthodox Christians for Lent showed a significant association with a reduction in cholesterol. Orthodox Christians following a plant-based fast may reduce fat intake and increase fibre compared to their usual diet, which may explain the association of their Lent fast with lower cholesterol."

However, caution is needed. Mellor warns that the extra gain can be wiped out by overconsumption of less healthy foods and drinks that usually follow fasting.

"To maintain the benefits of fasting, followers should avoid eating foods high in fat, sugar and salt," he emphasises.

Religion is an ally of public health

Although religious beliefs have not always sided with public health, Mellor's team's findings point to the power of specific aspects of religious faith to support healthier lifestyles.

Furthermore, he notes, "aspects of faith to promote self-care as part of religious practice, to improve physical health alongside spiritual growth and identity. For example, religious leaders could encourage healthy community meals outside of fasting periods to promote health and social connectivity."

Research has shown that believers experience greater health benefits through a range of interventions, including weight management. This may be partly attributed to faith-linked health interventions being more culturally appropriate and aligned with patients' beliefs and ideas. For example, scientific research indicates a correlation between religiosity and self-control, which can positively influence eating patterns.

READ MORE: Rheumatic diseases affect 1 in 1,000 Greek children under 18 years - What do experts say?

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024