Research Roundup #8: This Week’s Fasting News from Around the Web
THE LATEST NEWS AND RESEARCH UPDATES ON FASTING
Welcome to the Fast Insider News Roundup
Every week, we’re bringing you a round-up of the latest fasting, health, and wellness news to hit the wire. There are many ways that fasting converges with lifestyle to improve change day to day life as we know it. This week, we look at the fasting origins of Thanksgiving, how loneliness looks like hunger in the brain, how your sleep habits affect your heart health, and when we could see a COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Thanksgiving history: Before feasting there was fasting
Most Americans probably aren’t familiar with Fast Day, although in colonial times it was as popular as Thanksgiving is now.
The Pilgrim’s feast with the Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth which most Americans think of as the first Thanksgiving, was actually a harvest festival. What most people called Thanksgiving was a day that involved fasting and offering prayers of gratitude to God for granting some good fortune (or to show penitence when times were tough).
It was only around 1740 when the New England colonies began observing regular annual fasts and thanksgivings, breaking them up with a fast in April for good luck in planting, and a feast in November to give thanks for the harvest. Thus began the tradition of the Thanksgiving feast.
And while Thanksgiving grew in popularity with President Abraham Lincoln making it a national holiday, the last national day of fasting was called in response to his assassination in 1865. Fast Day began to die out in the years following, with it no longer being called a holiday in Massachusetts in 1894, though it still hung on in New Hampshire as an official holiday until 1991.
Fast Day failed, experts say, because it was often associated with religious judgment, but given the nation’s obesity epidemic, maybe it’s time to make room on the calendar for more fasting thanksgivings?
Hungry for connection
During the pandemic, many are seeing friends and family over Zoom or not at all. A new study from MIT finds that the longing we feel during this kind of isolation shares a neural basis with the cravings we feel when hungry.
Researchers found that even after just one day of total isolation, looking at people having fun together in images activated the same brain region that lights up when someone who has fasted all day sees a big plate of cheesy pasta. That region lighting up on MRI scans was the subsantia nigra, a tiny structure located in the midbrain linked with hunger and drug cravings.
While this study was done before COVID-related lockdowns, one finding was especially relevant: Those participants reporting chronic isolation months before the study showed weaker “cravings” in the MRI after the day of isolation, compared with those who reported a more rich social life.
Good sleep = healthier heart
Healthy sleep habits may help reduce the risk of heart failure, according to new research involving 408,802 healthy people in the UK. During the study, participants were assigned a score from zero to five based on five healthy sleep practices, from being a “morning person” to sleeping seven to eight hours a night, rarely or never snoring, having insomnia, or feeling excessively sleepy during the day. Over an average follow-up of 10 years, there were 5,221 cases of heart failure. Those that scored a 2 had a 15 percent reduced risk for heart failure those with a 3 had a 28 percent reduced risk, four had a 38 percent reduced risk, and those blessed individuals with a perfect 5 had a 42 percent lower risk of heart failure compared with those that scored a zero or one.
Americans could see a vaccine by mid-December
Following news this week that vaccine maker Pfizer and partner BioNTech had applied for an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine, Moncel Slaoui, chief scientific officer for Operation Warp Speed, said that some people in the U.S. could start receiving a vaccine by the second week of December. That’s great news for a nation that’s reporting record high cases of coronavirus. Health care workers and others most at risk from contracting the virus will receive the first doses.
Fasting.com is committed to investigating and reporting on the many ways fasting, health, nutrition, and wellness can help all of us rise to meet the challenges we face in life and, in doing so, liberates us to live our lives, longer and better. Together, especially when we are healthy and happy, we can address the world’s greatest problems.
Check-in weekly for our research round-up and look forward to even more in-depth fasting science coverage, analysis, and takeaways in the near future.
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