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Discussing religion, spirituality and values. Amy Umble is the religion reporter for The Free Lance-Star. You can email her at
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Fasting for Your Heart and Your Soul

 Most people who fast for religious reasons do it to become more spiritual. But they might be happy to hear it’s also good for their hearts. A recent study found that people who fast once a month have a reduced risk for heart disease. This is especially good news for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the religious group that inspired the study. Apparently, members of that religion have pretty healthy hearts, and doctors wanted to know if it was because of their practice of abstaining from coffee, alcohol and tobacco or if it had anything to do with the fact that they fast once a month (typically, the first Sunday of each month is fast Sunday, and members go without food and donate the money they would have spent on food for church relief efforts). Here’s the story from Religion News Service:

Study suggests fasting is good for your heart

(RNS) Fasting for a day each month can reduce your chances of getting heart disease, according to a study released this week.

Researchers undertook the study based on the experience of Mormons, who historically have been found to have lower rates of heart disease than other Americans.

Mormons belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which teaches fasting. Researchers wanted to assess the impact of this practice — as well as other church teachings, such as not smoking and abstaining from coffee and alcohol — on heart disease rates.

They examined the records of heart registry patients who had undergone diagnostic testing between 1994 and 2002 to look for blockages in coronary arteries. A total of 4,629 patients were able to be diagnosed by doctors as either having or not having coronary artery disease (defined as at least 70 percent blockage in at least one artery).

Coronary artery disease was less prevalent in patients who identified themselves as Mormons — 61 percent vs. 66 percent in those who stated another religion or no religious preference.

But researchers were struck by the fact that non-Mormons who fasted as part of a health-conscious lifestyle also reported lower rates of heart disease.

“People who fast seem to receive a heart-protective benefit,” said Benjamin Horne, study author and director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

Overall, fasting was associated with 39 percent lower odds of being diagnosed with coronary artery disease in the study, results of which were released during the 80th annual American Heart Association scientific meeting in Orlando, Fla.

According to Horne, the association between fasting and healthy arteries could be due to timing.

“When you abstain from food for 24 hours, it reduces the constant exposure of the body to foods and glucose,” he said.