Periodic fasting may convert bad cholesterol to energy and reduce the risk of diabetes through a new biological process discovered by researchers.
According to a recent study, after a person fasts for a period of 10 to 12 hours, the body searchers for alternative sources of energy. During that process, researchers note that the body extracts low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from fat cells and converts it into energy.
“When we studied the effects of fasting in apparently healthy people, cholesterol levels increased during the 1-time 24-hour fast,” said Benjamin Horne, PhD, the study’s lead researcher and director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute.
“Together with our prior studies that showed decades of routine fasting was associated with a lower risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease, this led us to think that fasting is most impactful for reducing the risk of diabetes and related metabolic problems.”
After reviewing the results of a previous study that showed an association between 1-day, water-only fasting in health participants and weight loss and lower glucose levels, Horne and colleagues conducted a new study to look at how fasting affects prediabetes over an extended period of time.
Participants included pre diabetes patients—men and women between the ages of 30 and 69—that exhibited at least 3 metabolic risk factors (high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, high triglyceride level, and a large waistline).
Horne noted that during fasting days, cholesterol increased slightly, however, over a 6-week period, patients lost weight and their cholesterol levels waned by approximately 12%.
Researchers also observed that the conversion process of LDL (through fat cells) to energy nullified insulin resistance.
“The fat cells themselves are a major contributor to insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes,” Horne said. “Because fasting may help to eliminate and break down fat cells, insulin resistance may be frustrated by fasting.”
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