Fasting and food restrictions: beneficial or harmful?

08:53, 15 March, 2016
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fasting-leadAs spring gets into swing, for many people it is time to dust off the winter and get in the best shape. Therefore, people often start fasting or observe restrictions of food. Doctor dietitian and head of the professional study programme “Nutrition” at RSU, Lolita Vija Neimane, tells us about the impact of fasting and food restrictions on health.

“Traditionally, Christians – Catholics, Orthodox Christians, etc. – practice a 40-day fasting period before Easter. Some people do a strict fast by refraining from eating all products of animal origin, others consume fish twice a week,” says Dr Lolita Vija Neimane.

“Various food restrictions were propagated by the ancient philosophers Plutarch, Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Paracelsus, Aristotle. Thus, food restrictions have a very long history. Refraining from particular type of food to a greater or lesser extent might be associated with fasting for religious purposes. At the same time, people might also do that for health benefits or other reasons,” Dr Neimane continues.

She stresses: “It is a positive trend that during the fasting period people live healthier and abstain from addictions, eat more fruits, vegetables, leafy greens and legumes. It all may have a positive effect on health.”

Some studies show that fasting may foster the lowering of cholesterol level and blood pressure, some might experience weight reduction. Though, consequences might as well be less pleasant – reduction of calcium and high-density cholesterol level. Dr Neimane continues: “Though the fasting period is short enough to cause harm to a healthy person.” Though, it would be more beneficial for people to eat moderately throughout all the lifetime, not only within 40 days per year, so that moderate eating would become a habit.

“Whereas, water fasting – a type of fasting in which the practitioner consumes only water – should be practiced solely upon consulting the doctor. Advice on fasting available over the internet and in the mass media should be evaluated critically, especially by those suffering from health disorders,” warns the head of RSU study programmes.

Finally, the doctor dietitian wishes all people regardless of the fact whether they practice fasting “to enjoy more sunlight and fresh air, maple sap, afterwards birch sap, young nettle leaves and other leafy greens and physical activities”.