MURRAY — Researchers in Utah are recruiting participants for a study to determine whether regular fasting has specific metabolic benefits.
While many Utahns already fast for religious purposes, Intermountain Medical Center's Heart Institute is launching the study — testing once-weekly, water-only fasting — to see whether the habit can reduce a person's risk of diabetes and coronary heart disease.
Doctors expect the results of the study will show that fasting renews a person's metabolism, re-sensitizing the body to insulin, said Benjamin Horne, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the hospital.
"We expect people that are likely to be diagnosed with diabetes would benefit most by this study," he said. "We're looking for people who are willing to try fasting to see if it is something that will benefit their health and the health of others like them, that are on the verge of having diabetes."
The group has studied fasting before, finding that the practice of abstaining from food for a certain period of time has various physiological benefits, specifically the body's use of fat as a source of fuel during the period of mild starvation. The 2011 study involved participants missing two meals in a 24-hour period.
Horne said many people in Utah are already accustomed to fasting, making recruitment for the upcoming study likely easier.
Utah's population, which includes many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, provides a large pool of people for researchers to draw from. Mormons are asked to fast at least once a month for religious purposes.
More than 200 healthy volunteers were involved in the previous study.
The study seeks to involve participants between 30 and 69 years old, who are either pre-diabetic or are already managing diabetes with diet alone.
Those interested must also have at least three of the following metabolic challenges: moderate to high blood sugar, high blood pressure, obesity, high triglycerides and low HDL (good) cholesterol. Participants can't be taking medications to control diabetes and cannot be pregnant at the time of the study.
Participants in the new research will engage in a 24-hour water-only fast, consuming nothing more than water and appropriate medications, six times over a five-week time period. They will fast once at the beginning of the study and then a fast once per week at the end of each of the remaining five weeks.
Researchers will measure and record changes in weight, blood pressure and bio-markers of metabolic, cardiovascular and general health over the course of the study to see how fasting affects the different variables.
To participate or get more information about the study, call the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center, at 801-507-4769.