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Incredible Health Benefits of Fasting that We're Just Beginning to Know



The Commandment by God to Adam and Eve to eat freely from every tree of Paradise except from the forbidden tree in a sense represents Original Fasting

Then the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (ie. fast from the fruit of the forbidden tree), for when you eat from it you will surely pass away (from you present state).”
~ Genesis 2:16-17

And We said, "O Adam, dwell, you and your wife, in Paradise and eat therefrom in abundance from wherever you will. But do not approach this tree (ie. abstain from the fruits of this tree), lest you be among the wrongdoers."
~ al-Quran 2:35

Prophet David pleaded with God for his child while he fasted.
~ 2 Samuel 12:16-23

So he [Moses] was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread, and he did not drink water.
~ Exodus 34:28

Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights.
~ Gospel of Matthew 4:2

O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was decreed for those before you, that you may attain wholeness / holiness (muttaqun).
~ al-Quran 2:183

Fasting, most commonly associated with religious and spiritual traditions may hold the key to fight against some of the most deadly modern day health risks such as cancer, brain function degeneration and cardiovascular risk conditions. The timeless wisdom brought forth by the divinely revealed and inspired religious tradition has much more to offer to humanity than we may like to give it credit for. In this age of championing secularism, science again and again stumble upon practices mostly preserved by religious traditions and discover immense benefit embedded therein for all of humanity. The practice of fasting is one of such religious observances which are proving to offer incredible health benefits by the latest medical research and study.

In this post I am highlighting some of the latest findings regarding the health benefit of fasting as uncovered by modern scientific research and study. For details of these study, please follow the links given as source.



From an evolutionary perspective, three meals a day is a strange modern invention. Volatility in our ancient ancestors' food supplies most likely brought on frequent fasting. Such evolutionary pressures selected for genes that strengthened brain areas involved in learning and memory, which increased the odds of finding food and surviving. Thus intermittent and regular fasting may be both a smart and smartening way to live - according to biologists and scientists who have studied the effect of fasting.

Religions have long maintained that fasting is good for the soul, but its bodily benefits were not widely recognized until the early 1900s, when doctors began recommending it to treat various disorders—such as diabetes, obesity and epilepsy.

Related research on calorie restriction took off in the 1930s, after Cornell University nutritionist Clive McCay discovered that rats subjected to stringent daily dieting from an early age lived longer and were less likely to develop cancer and other diseases as they aged, compared with animals that ate at will. Research on calorie restriction and periodic fasting intersected in 1945, when University of Chicago scientists reported that alternate-day feeding extended the life span of rats as much as daily dieting in McCay's earlier experiments. Moreover, intermittent fasting “seems to delay the development of the disorders that lead to death,” the Chicago researchers wrote.

One of his earliest studies revealed that alternate-day feeding made the rats' brains resistant to toxins that induce cellular damage akin to the kind cells endure as they age. In follow-up rodent studies, his group found that intermittent fasting protects against stroke damage, suppresses motor deficits in a mouse model of Parkinson's disease and slows cognitive decline in mice genetically engineered to mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer's. (Credit: Scientific American)




A new surge of interest in fasting suggests that it might indeed help people with cancer. It could also reduce the risk of developing cancer, guard against diabetes and heart disease, help control asthma and even stave off Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

Medically speaking, a fast is considered to start about 10 to 12 hours after a meal, when you have used up all the available glucose in your blood and start converting glycogen stored in liver and muscle cells into glucose to use for energy.

When it comes to treating cancer, Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California, thinks that short-term complete fasts maximize the benefits. He’s found that a 48-hour total fast slowed the growth of five of eight types of cancer in mice, the effect tending to be more pronounced the more fasts the animals undertook (Science Translational Medicine).

Fasting is harder on cancer cells than on normal cells, he says. That’s because the mutations that cause cancer lead to rapid growth under the physiological conditions in which they arose, but they can be at a disadvantage when conditions change. This could also explain why fasting combined with conventional cancer treatment provides a double whammy. (Source: Buffalo News)


Could fasting prevent cancers developing in the first place? Evidence is scant but there are “very good reasons” why it should. High levels of IGF-1 and glucose in the blood, and being overweight are all risk factors for cancer, and they can all be improved by fasting. Another risk factor is insulin, says Michelle Harvie at the University of Manchester, UK.

Mark Mattson at the U.S. National Institute on Aging, studies show that alternate-day fasting, with a single meal of about 600 calories on the fast day, can boost the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor by 50 to 400 percent, depending on the brain region. (source)


There are recorded evidences that people with diagnosed cancer have healed using special diet that cuts off glucose level and this is also true for people who fast.

The explanation of the "how" cure of cancer is possible through fasting could be Ketone Bodies, which are three different water-soluble biochemicals that are produced as by-products when fatty acids are broken down for energy in the liver. Two of the three are used as a source of energy in the heart and brain while the third (acetone) is a waste product excreted from the body. In the brain, they are a vital source of energy during fasting.

All cells, including cancer cells, are fueled by glucose, but when you deprive normal cells of glucose they will automatically switch to an alternate fuel of ketone bodies. A defect in cancer cells prevents them from making this conversion, so they die.  Ketogenic diet specialist Dr Dominic D’Agostino explains it like this, “Your normal cells have the metabolic flexibility to adapt from using glucose to using ketone bodies, but cancer cells lack this metabolic flexibility. So we use the ketogenic diet  to exploit that defect.”

The heart preferentially utilizes fatty acids for energy under normal physiologic conditions. However, under ketotic conditions, the heart can effectively utilize ketone bodies for energy.

The brain gets a portion of its energy from ketone bodies when glucose is less available (e.g., during fasting, strenuous exercise, low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet and in neonates). In the event of low blood glucose, most other tissues have additional energy sources besides ketone bodies (such as fatty acids), but the brain has an obligatory requirement for some glucose. After the diet has been changed to lower blood glucose for 3 days, the brain gets 25% of its energy from ketone bodies. After about 4 days, this goes up to 70%. This is when it start to have serious effect on cancerous cells because they start to starve and die.

There is no disease that Allah has sent down except that He also has sent down its treatment. ~ Sacred Tradition of Islam


Another prescribed benefit of fasting is the healing process that begins in the body during a fast. During a fast energy is diverted away from the digestive system due to its lack of use and towards the metabolism and immune system. The healing process during a fast is precipitated by the body's search for energy sources. Abnormal growths within the body, tumors and the like, do not have the full support of the body's supplies and therefore are more susceptible to autolysis (destruction of cell). Furthermore, "production of protein for replacement of damaged cells (protein synthesis) occurs more efficiently because fewer 'mistakes' are made by the DNA/RNA genetic controls which govern this process." A higher efficiency in protein synthesis results in healthier cells, tissues and organs.

Therefore, when one is fasting, the person is consciously diverting energy from the digestive system to the immune system.

The most scientifically proven advantage to fasting is the feeling of rejuvenation and extended life expectancy. Part of this phenomenon is caused by a number of the benefits mentioned above. A slower metabolic rate, more efficient protein production, an improved immune system, and the increased production of hormones contributes to this long-term benefit of fasting. In addition to the Human Growth Hormone that is released more frequently during a fast, an anti-aging hormone is also produced more efficiently. (source)


Research cardiologists at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute are reporting that fasting not only lowers one's risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes, but also causes significant changes in a person's blood cholesterol levels. Both diabetes and elevated cholesterol are known risk factors for coronary heart disease.

The discovery expands upon a 2007 Intermountain Healthcare study that revealed an association between fasting and reduced risk of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death among men and women in America. In the new research, fasting was also found to reduce other cardiac risk factors, such as triglycerides, weight, and blood sugar levels. The findings were presented on April 3, at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans.

This recent study also confirmed earlier findings about the effects of fasting on human growth hormone (HGH), a metabolic protein. HGH works to protect lean muscle and metabolic balance, a response triggered and accelerated by fasting. During the 24-hour fasting periods, HGH increased an average of 1,300 percent in women, and nearly 2,000 percent in men. That is a huge and clear impact of fasting. (source)

The rate of cancers and cardiovascular disease in dieting animals was less than half of those permitted to eat freely.


Researchers at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore have found evidence which shows that periods of stopping virtually all food intake for one or two days a week could protect the brain against some of the worst effects of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other ailments.

There is a specific mechanism by which the growth of neurones in the brain could be affected by reduced energy intakes. Amounts of two cellular messaging chemicals are boosted when calorie intake is sharply reduced. These chemical messengers play an important role in boosting the growth of neurones in the brain, a process that would counteract the impact of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Cutting daily food intake to around 500 calories – which amounts to little more than a few vegetables and some tea – for two days out of seven had clear beneficial effects in their studies.

The cells of the brain are put under mild stress that is analogous to the effects of exercise on muscle cells - The overall effect is beneficial. This model has been worked out using studies of fasting on humans and the resulting impact on their general health – even sufferers from asthma have shown benefits. (source)

While most brains shrink with age, the restricted diet appeared to maintain the volume of the brain at least in some regions. In particular, the areas associated with movement and memory seemed to be better preserved.


Researcher believes that intermittent fasting acts in part as a form of mild stress that continually revs up cellular defenses against molecular damage. For instance, occasional fasting increases the levels of “chaperone proteins,” which prevent the incorrect assembly of other molecules in the cell. Additionally, fasting mice have higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that prevents stressed neurons from dying. Low levels of BDNF have been linked to everything from depression to Alzheimer's, although it is still unclear whether these findings reflect cause and effect. Fasting also ramps up autophagy, a kind of garbage-disposal system in cells that gets rid of damaged molecules, including ones that have been previously tied to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurological diseases.

One of intermittent fasting's main effects seems to be increasing the body's responsiveness to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar.

In 2007 Johnson, Mattson and their colleagues published a clinical study showing a rapid, significant alleviation of asthma symptoms and various signs of inflammation in nine overweight asthmatics who near-fasted every other day for two months. (credit)

Scientists are uncovering evidence that short periods of fasting, if properly controlled, could achieve a number of health benefits, as well as potentially helping the overweight. By lowering IGF-1 hormone through, through restricted calorie intake, life expectancy can be increased. As levels of the IGF-1 hormone drop, a number of repair genes appear to get switched on according to ongoing research by Professor Valter Longo of the University of Southern California.

Calorie restriction, eating well but not much, is one of the few things that has been shown to extend life expectancy, at least in animals. We've known since the 1930s that mice put on a low-calorie, nutrient-rich diet live far longer. There is mounting evidence that the same is true in monkeys. (Credit: BBC) also see Proof mounts on restricted diet.


 Sleep is a blessing of God for the most natural mode to rest, heal and rejuvenate our body and health. When we are deprived of sleep we begin to realize how valuable sleep is. One of the modern day maladies is sleeplessness or insomnia. Fasting can be a great organic way to cure insomnia and improve the quality of sleep and maximize rest through deep sleep. Here is the science behind the effect of fasting on sleep: The background activity of the brain is called electroencephalogram or EEG and can be recorded by the use of scalp electrodes. The dominant frequency and amplitude characteristic of the surface EEG varies with state of arousal. A person goes through five stages while going through sleep and each step correspond to different depth of sleep. During the first few hours of an Islamic fast, the EEG is normal.

However, the frequency of the alpha rhythm (calm wakefulness, 8-12Hz) is decreased by a low blood glucose level. This may happen at the end of the fasting day towards evening when the blood glucose level is low. Fasting improves the quality and intensifies the depth of sleep, a matter of particular importance to the aged who have much less stage three and four sleep (deep sleep). The process of repair of the body and of the brain take place during sleep. Two hour of sleep in the month of Ramadan (the month dedicate for fasting) are more satisfying and refreshing than more hours of sleep otherwise. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep (which occupies about 25% of total sleeping time) and dreaming are closely associated. Dreaming sleep occupies 50% of sleep cycle in infants and decreases with age. Brain synthetic processes occur in deep sleep; brain protein molecules are synthesized in the brain during sleep or used in REM sleep in restoring cerebral function.

Fasting significantly increase deep sleep and also accelerates synthesis of memory molecules. A number of studies have concluded that a short period of sleep during the day, a power-nap can decrease stress and improve productivity. And fasting can be a major catalyst in enabling such sleep during the day and hence relieve stress, improve healing and repair of the body.


The biological clock or the period of the circadian pace-maker in human is 24 hours 11 minutes. Hormonal secretion is frequently characterised by rhythmic fluctuations which may be regular or irregular in periodicity. Muslims who have been fasting regularly since childhood, have been exposed to different sleep/wake and light/darkness cycles on a daily basis in one annual lunar month. Hence, it may be easier for such persons to synchronise their circadian, circalunar and circannual biological rhythms under difficult conditions.

So for example, it will easier for a fasting person to adapt time zone difference after international travel, adapting to new day-night rhythm as well as recovering faster from jet lag related uneasiness, sleep disturbances, fatigue etc.


 During fasting, certain endogenous, narcotic like substances endorphins are released into the body. They have a tranquilizing effect as well as an elating effect on the mind. These are also probably responsive for prevention of psychosomatic diseases. The endorphins have several effects, including slowing down metabolism to conserve energy. Another effect of endorphins may be that, although they produce elation as well as intense hunger, yet they do not drive a person to eat with sheer gluttony.

Fasting Promotes detoxification

Processed foods contain lots of additives. These additives may become toxins in the body. Some of them promote production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Most of these toxins are stored in fats. Fat is burnt during fasting, especially when it is prolonged. And the toxins are released. The liver, kidneys and other organs in the body are involved in detoxification.

Fasting Rests Digestive System

During fasting, the digestive organs rest. The normal physiologic functions continue especially production of digestive secretions, but at reduced rates. This exercise helps to maintain balance of fluids in the body. Breakdown of food takes place at steady rates. Release of energy also follows a gradual pattern.

Fasting Resolves Inflammatory Response

Some studies show that fasting promotes resolution of inflammatory diseases and allergies. Examples of such inflammatory diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis and skin diseases such as psoriasis. Some experts assert that fasting may promote healing of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis.

Fasting Reduces Blood Sugar

Fasting increases breakdown of glucose so that the body can get energy. It reduces production of insulin. This rests the pancreas. Glucagon is produced to facilitate the breakdown of glucose. The outcome of fasting is a reduction in blood sugar.

Fasting Corrects High Blood Pressure

Fasting is one of the non-drug methods of reducing blood pressure. It helps to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is clogging of arteries by fat particles. During fasting glucose and later, fat stores are used to produce energy. Metabolic rate is reduced during fasting. The fear-flight hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline are also reduced. This keeps the metabolic steady and within limits. The benefit is a reduction in blood pressure. (credit)

Fasting Help to Overcome Addictions

Fasting can help addicts reduce their cravings, for nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and other substance abuse. Although there are other regimens required to resolve addictions, fasting can play a role. Religious observance of fasting is one of the best motivator to overcome addiction the most effectively.

Fasting when done within religious context has much better chance of boosting psychological and spiritual aspects of the person as well. Secular fasting done for diet keep the mind on a different orientation and craving for food can be high, but religious fasting has the extra benefit that it keeps the consciousness totally differently oriented and hence keeps the craving for food almost zero or minimal if fasting is done with proper religious mindset. Islam has the most powerful and well planned fasting regime with a focus on the spiritual dimension which brings not only physiological benefits alone but also tranquility of the heart and overall deep peace within.

Wa an taswumu khayrun lakum 
inkuntum ta'alamun

and fasting is better for you 
if you only knew.



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Technology of the Heart: Incredible Health Benefits of Fasting that We're Just Beginning to Know
Incredible Health Benefits of Fasting that We're Just Beginning to Know
Medical research is uncovering new and exciting benefits of fasting. This article explores how fasting is proving to prevent cancer, destroy tumor cells, prevent brain degeneration, reduce harmful fat and cholesterol and improve heart.
Technology of the Heart
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