10 Ways Fasting Boosts Hearth Health and Prevents Diseases

Fasting, a practice gaining significant attention in health and wellness, has demonstrated compelling benefits for heart health and disease prevention.

Regardless of the form of fasting, you may plan to get into, its positive impact extends beyond weight management. Intermittent and prolonged fasting can significantly improve heart health.

In this article, we will discuss the scientific data on how fasting influences one’s cardiovascular health.

Benefits of Fasting for Hearth Health

1. Decreases Inflammation

Fasting protects the heart by preventing unnecessary inflammation. While more clinical studies are needed, there is evidence that fasting reduces the number of circulating monocytes and their inflammatory activity1 in healthy humans.

Fasting also attenuates proinflammatory cytokines and immune cells.2 While our immune system, including immune cells, protects the body from foreign substances, overreactive immune cells also trigger inflammation by detecting your cells as foreign.

Studies report that a reactive immune system affects the heart,3 causing arrhythmias, pericardial damage, myocarditis, myocardial fibrosis, and impaired valvular function.

2. Reduces Oxidative Stress

Fasting improves heart health by reducing oxidative stress4 through increasing antioxidant enzyme activity in the body, increasing the turnover rate of oxidized macromolecules, and reducing LDL cholesterol.

Reactive oxygen species are a byproduct of normal cell activity.

When it comes to the heart, excess reactive oxygen species (ROS) can cause myocardial remodeling, including contractile dysfunction and structural alterations,5 promote atherosclerotic plaque formation, and arrhythmia.6

Studies report a reduced level of malondialdehyde in the heart4 in intermittent and prolonged fasting, a measure of oxidative stress.

3. Improves Mitochondrial Health

Fasting helps prevent heart disease by preventing mitochondrial impairment.

The mitochondria serve as cellular powerhouses responsible for ATP production, but dysfunctional mitochondria act as dangerous ROS generators7, leading to oxidative stress and as triggers for cell damage and death.

The good thing is that studies suggest that fasting helps maintain mitochondrial health8 and prevents mitochondrial impairment and metabolic inflexibility. This means lesser ROS, leading to better heart health.

4. Enhances Insulin Sensitivity

Fasting has been proven to improve insulin sensitivity in diabetic and healthy adults. Insulin resistance is one of the heart’s enemies, as it increases the levels of small, dense LDLs,9 which are the most atherogenic subtype of LDL.

In this 2018 study, proponents concluded that 5-week intermittent fasting improved insulin levels,10 insulin sensitivity, β cell responsiveness, blood pressure, and oxidative stress levels in men with prediabetes

5. Decreases Blood Sugar Levels

Fasting helps lower blood sugar levels, decreasing insulin levels, which means fat-burning and healthier blood vessels.

It’s vital to note that diabetes is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

A landmark study on people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes11 demonstrated that fasting influences glycemic control, reducing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular complications.

However, it’s also important to note that people with diabetes should always consult their healthcare provider before participating in any form of fasting.

fasting and heart health

6. Balances Cholesterol & Triglycerides

Scientific evidence highlights fasting’s role in promoting a favorable lipid profile. By balancing cholesterol and triglyceride levels,12 fasting contributes to a lower risk of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.

Fasting also increases the levels of HDL,12 which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Overall, the metabolic shift during fasting encourages the utilization of stored fats for energy, mitigating the accumulation of harmful lipids.

7. Promotes Fat Utilization and Reduction

Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart disease, and fasting triggers a metabolic shift towards fat utilization, promoting the breakdown of adipose tissue.

This not only aids in weight management but also reduces the visceral fat associated with cardiovascular risks.

A study demonstrated that the weight loss experienced with fasting is due to increased fat utilization,13 and even more fat oxidation occurs with fasting combined with exercise training.14

8. Repairs Dysfunctional Cells

Fasting activates autophagy, a cellular self-cleaning process activated during fasting,15 and plays a pivotal role in repairing dysfunctional cells.

In the heart, studies suggest that autophagy protects myocardial cells16 and has an adaptive function in progressive heart failure. Substances and damaged myocardial cells can be eliminated excessively via the autophagic route in the late stages of heart failure.

9. Improves Blood Pressure

Fasting has been linked to improved blood pressure regulation, a key factor in heart health. This effect is attributed to the enhanced endothelial function and decreased oxidative stress associated with fasting.

Studies on long-term fasting demonstrated that subjects with and without high blood pressure had reduced systolic and diastolic results.17

Some subjects stopped taking antihypertensive medication after participating in the clinical trial.

10. Strengthens Vascular Health

Fasting positively influences vascular health, a cornerstone of cardiovascular well-being. A study suggests that fasting significantly enhances endothelial function18 and lowers levels of vascular damage indicators via enhancing endothelial progenitor cell activity and activating autophagy.

These effects improve blood flow, reducing the strain on the heart and safeguarding against vascular diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can fasting help repair a heart?

In some conditions, yes. The cellular rejuvenation, inflammation reduction, and metabolic benefits induced by fasting contribute to overall heart health, potentially aiding in the repair of certain heart conditions.

Can fasting unblock arteries?

While not a direct solution, fasting’s positive effects on cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure can contribute to arterial health over time. Consultation with healthcare professionals is advised.

Does fasting affect the heartbeat?

Fasting’s positive influence on insulin sensitivity and blood pressure regulation may indirectly impact heart rate. Individual responses may vary, necessitating consultation with medical professionals.

What organs is fasting good for?

Fasting yields systemic benefits, impacting organs such as the heart, liver, and pancreas. Enhanced metabolic function, reduced inflammation, and improved cellular repair contribute to the overall well-being of various organs.

References

1Jordan, S., Tung, N., Casanova-Acebes, M., Chang, C., Cantoni, C., Zhang, D., Wirtz, T. H., Naik, S., Rose, S. A., Brocker, C. N., Gainullina, A., Hornburg, D., Horng, S., Maier, B. B., Cravedi, P., LeRoith, D., Gonzalez, F. J., Meissner, F., Ochando, J., Rahman, A., … Merad, M. (2019). Dietary Intake Regulates the Circulating Inflammatory Monocyte Pool. Cell, 178(5), 1102–1114.e17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2019.07.050

2Aly SM. Role of intermittent fasting on improving health and reducing diseases. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2014 Jul;8(3):V-VI. doi: 10.12816/0023985. PMID: 25505868; PMCID: PMC4257368.

3Pan SY, Tian HM, Zhu Y, Gu WJ, Zou H, Wu XQ, Cheng RJ, Yang Z. Cardiac damage in autoimmune diseases: Target organ involvement that cannot be ignored. Front Immunol. 2022 Nov 22;13:1056400. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.1056400. PMID: 36483559; PMCID: PMC9722763.

4Hardiany NS, Karman AP, Calista ASP, Anindyanari BG, Rahardjo DE, Novira PR, Taufiq RR, Imtiyaz S, Antarianto RD. The Effect of Fasting on Oxidative Stress in the Vital Organs of New Zealand White Rabbit. Rep Biochem Mol Biol. 2022 Jul;11(2):190-199. doi: 10.52547/rbmb.11.2.190. PMID: 36164627; PMCID: PMC9455196.

5Tsutsui, H., Kinugawa, S., & Matsushima, S. (2011). Oxidative stress and heart failure. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology. https://doi.org/H-00554-2011

6Senoner T, Dichtl W. Oxidative Stress in Cardiovascular Diseases: Still a Therapeutic Target? Nutrients. 2019 Sep 4;11(9):2090. doi: 10.3390/nu11092090. PMID: 31487802; PMCID: PMC6769522.

7Poznyak, A. V., Ivanova, E. A., Sobenin, I. A., Yet, F., & Orekhov, A. N. (2020). The Role of Mitochondria in Cardiovascular Diseases. Biology, 9(6). https://doi.org/10.3390/biology9060137

8Lettieri-Barbato, D., Cannata, S. M., Casagrande, V., Ciriolo, M. R., & Aquilano, K. (2018). Time-controlled fasting prevents aging-like mitochondrial changes induced by persistent dietary fat overload in skeletal muscle. PLoS ONE, 13(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0195912

9Howard B. V. (1999). Insulin resistance and lipid metabolism. The American journal of cardiology, 84(1A), 28J–32J. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0002-9149(99)00355-0

10Sutton, E. F., Beyl, R., Early, K. S., Cefalu, W. T., Ravussin, E., & Peterson, C. M. (2018). Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress Even Without Weight Loss in Men with Prediabetes. Cell Metabolism, 27(6), 1212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2018.04.010

11Herz, D., Haupt, S., Zimmer, R. T., Wachsmuth, N. B., Schierbauer, J., Zimmermann, P., Voit, T., Thurm, U., Khoramipour, K., Rilstone, S., & Moser, O. (2023). Efficacy of Fasting in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Narrative Review. Nutrients, 15(16). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15163525

12Ahmed, N., Farooq, J., Siddiqi, H. S., Meo, S. A., Kulsoom, B., Laghari, A. H., Jamshed, H., & Pasha, F. (2021). Impact of Intermittent Fasting on Lipid Profile-A Quasi-Randomized Clinical Trial. Frontiers in nutrition, 7, 596787. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2020.596787

13Welton S, Minty R, O’Driscoll T, Willms H, Poirier D, Madden S, Kelly L. Intermittent fasting and weight loss: Systematic review. Can Fam Physician. 2020 Feb;66(2):117-125. PMID: 32060194; PMCID: PMC7021351.

14Zouhal H, Saeidi A, Salhi A, Li H, Essop MF, Laher I, Rhibi F, Amani-Shalamzari S, Ben Abderrahman A. Exercise Training and Fasting: Current Insights. Open Access J Sports Med. 2020 Jan 21;11:1-28. doi: 10.2147/OAJSM.S224919. PMID: 32021500; PMCID: PMC6983467.

15Wang Y, Xu Y, Wu Y, Mahmood T, Chen J, Guo X, Wu W, Wang B, Guo Y, Yuan J. Impact of Different Durations of Fasting on Intestinal Autophagy and Serum Metabolome in Broiler Chicken. Animals (Basel). 2021 Jul 23;11(8):2183. doi: 10.3390/ani11082183. PMID: 34438641; PMCID: PMC8388447.

16Jiang, B., Zhou, X., Yang, T., Wang, L., Feng, L., Wang, Z., Xu, J., Jing, W., Wang, T., Su, H., Yang, G., & Zhang, Z. (2023). The role of autophagy in cardiovascular disease: Cross-interference of signaling pathways and underlying therapeutic targets. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcvm.2023.1088575

17Grundler, F., Mesnage, R., Michalsen, A., & Wilhelmi de Toledo, F. (2020). Blood Pressure Changes in 1610 Subjects With and Without Antihypertensive Medication During Long-Term Fasting. Journal of the American Heart Association, 9(23), e018649. https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.120.018649

18Sun, J., Zhang, T., Zhang, L., Ke, B., & Qin, J. (2020). Fasting Therapy Contributes to the Improvement of Endothelial Function and Decline in Vascular Injury-Related Markers in Overweight and Obese Individuals via Activating Autophagy of Endothelial Progenitor Cells. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/3576030

Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.

Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.

Click on the links above to visit his author and about me pages.

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