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From Religion to Secularism: the Benefits of Fasting


Purpose of review

Since the early development of human societies, religious beliefs, and practices has been integral to their identity, culture, and social structure, traditions are influenced by the area, era, and culture wherein they developed. Some religions offer advice on behavioral and diet modifications as strategies to fortify the body, purify the spirit, and elevate consciousness. This review is an attempt to compare different practices, describe the health benefits and risks of fasting, and reconcile these age-old recommendations with practical modern life.

Recent findings

Research to clarify and quantify the impact of these dietary modifications is challenging due to the variability in recommendations among various religions and in day-to-day practices.


Most religions share common goals of well-being, body-mind integration, and spiritual attainment. Historically, the transformational power of fasting periods has been appreciated, but there is still much to discover about the underlying beneficial physiologic mechanisms of fasting in preventing and treating metabolic diseases.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Correspondence to Carla Venegas-Borsellino.

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Carla Venegas-Borsellino, Sonikpreet, and Robert G. Martindale declare they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Gastroenterology, Critical Care, and Lifestyle Medicine

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Venegas-Borsellino, C., Sonikpreet & Martindale, R.G. From Religion to Secularism: the Benefits of Fasting. Curr Nutr Rep 7, 131–138 (2018).

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  • Religious fasting
  • Caloric restriction
  • Orthodox fasting
  • Islam
  • Buddhism
  • Judaism
  • Hinduism
  • Daniel Fast