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One month of dawn-to-dusk fasting decreases proteins that drive atherosclerosis, heart disease, and cancer in people who have metabolic syndrome, a recent study has found. People who fasted also lost weight and saw improvements in their metabolic and cardiovascular health.

The study involved 14 people who had metabolic syndrome – a constellation of health conditions that increases a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Participants fasted (no food or drink) from dawn to dusk for more than 14 hours every day for four weeks. They ate a pre-fast meal (breakfast) before beginning their fast and a post-fast meal (dinner) after ending their fast each day. Researchers analyzed the proteomes (the collective set of proteins) of the participants' peripheral blood mononuclear cells, a type of immune cell.

They found that proteins that drive atherosclerosis, heart disease, and cancer were decreased, but proteins that suppress cancer and inflammation were increased. Interestingly, they found that levels of apolipoprotein B, a protein associated with the development of atherosclerotic heart disease, were markedly lower after a month of fasting, and these lower levels persisted even one week after the fasting period ended. In addition, the participants lost weight, and their insulin resistance and blood pressure improved.

Evidence suggests that fasting flips a metabolic “switch,” liberating fat stores via fatty acid oxidation and ketone production while safeguarding lean muscle mass and function. Consequently, fasting improves overall body composition but also triggers the activation of biochemical processes and signaling pathways that optimize human performance and physiological function, possibly slowing the processes of aging and disease. Learn more about fasting in our overview article.

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