Study: Fasting May Prevent Coronary Damage

Mormonism has topped the news again, but this time it has nothing to do with the presidential election and everything to do with diet.

A new study finds that Mormons are less likely to suffer from heart disease, which doctors believe may be because Mormons fast once a month.

The Intermountain Medical Center and the University of Utah's research found those who skipped meals once a month were 40 percent less likely to be diagnosed with coronary artery disease than those who did not fast regularly.

The study also included people who were not Mormons and found non-Mormons who fasted regularly experienced benefits, too.

"The people who fasted once a month, skipping two meals once a month, 24-hour fast, had a reduced risk for coronary artery disease," said ABC News medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson on "Good Morning America" today. "What we don't know obviously is whether it's the fasting itself or I think, more likely, fasting was a marker for people who lived healthy lifestyles in terms of nutrition and exercise in general."

Johnson said he would like to see the study replicated on a larger scale.

"I think it's worth looking at again. There's a lot we don't know about fasting," Johnson said. "[There are] very few good medical studies. We know it's a widely used religious practice. Most religions encourage fasting in people."

The study did correct for some Mormon diet restrictions, like caffeine, alcohol and smoking, which are not allowed in the religion. However, it did not account for exercise.

"They didn't look at overall lifestyle, which is of course key. If you fast once a month in the context of an overall lifestyle that looks at nutrition and exercise every day, I think it's a fine thing to do. But, to count on one day a month to cure all your health problems is just foolish," Johnson said.

Mormons also have a day of rest that could have been a factor in the result, Johnson added.

Also, he warned that certain types of people should be very careful about fasting, particularly children.

"We don't recommend they fast," he said. "For pregnant women, nursing women, people with serious chronic diseases like diabetes or seizures," even a short fast may cause problems, he added.