Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. 

An absolute fast or dry fasting is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period.

Fasting is observed by some religious bodies across the globe.

Christians and Muslims dedicate certain periods of the year to fasting and praying.

In fact, members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God are currently observing a 49-day fasting and prayer.

While some people cannot afford to fast due to health implications, researchers from the University of California have released the health benefits of fasting.

The researchers in an Irvine-led study have found evidence that fasting affects the circadian clock in the liver and the skeletal muscle, thereby causing them to rewire their metabolism, which can ultimately lead to improved health and protection against aging-associated diseases.

The circadian clock operates within the body and its organs as an intrinsic time-keeping machine, which preserves homeostasis in response to the changing environment. While food is known to influence clocks in peripheral tissues, it was unclear, until now, how the lack of food influences clock function and ultimately affects the body.

The lead author of the study, Prof. Paolo Sassone-Corsi, said, “We discovered that fasting influences the circadian clock and fasting-driven cellular responses, which together work to achieve fasting-specific temporal gene regulation. The skeletal muscle, for example, appears to be twice as responsive to fasting as the liver.”

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According to sciencedaily.com, the study, published recently in the Cell Reports, was conducted by using mice, which were subjected to 24-hour periods of fasting. While fasting, researchers noted that the mice showed a reduction in oxygen consumption, respiratory exchange ratio and energy expenditure, all of which were completely abolished by re-feeding, which paralleled results observed in humans.

“The reorganisation of gene regulation by fasting could prime the genome to a more permissive state to anticipate upcoming food intake and thereby drive a new rhythmic cycle of gene expression. In other words, fasting is able to essentially reprogram a variety of cellular responses. Therefore, optimal fasting in a timed manner would be strategic to positively affect cellular functions and ultimately benefiting health and protecting against aging-associated diseases,” Sassone-Corsi said.

The research opened new avenues of investigation that could ultimately lead to the development of nutritional strategies to improve health in humans.

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