Skipping meals once a month could help stave off a heart attack, say scientists.
Fasting for at least 24 hours cuts the risk of coronary artery disease by up to 40 per cent, compared with those who eat every day, research shows.
Experts believe the break from food could help 're-set' the body's metabolism, enabling it to work more efficiently as a result. The findings come from a study of Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which requires followers to fast once a month.
It has been recognised since the 1970s that Mormons have lower rates of heart disease than other Americans.
Researchers say such protection should be available to anyone going without food for a day each month.
Source - BBC
Study author Dr Benjamin Horne, professor of biomedical informatics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, said: "People who fast seem to receive a heart-protective benefit, and this appeared to also hold true in non-LDS (Latter Day Saints) people who fast as part of a health-conscious lifestyle."
His team examined the records of patients who had had a coronary angiography - an X-ray examination of the blood vessels of the heart to look for blockages - between 1994 and 2002. Of 4,629 men and women whose arteries could be clearly examined, Mormons were less likely to have coronary artery disease, defined as 70 per cent narrowing or blocking of at least one artery.
Altogether, 61 per cent of Mormons had heart disease compared with 66 per cent of others. Dr Horne said the difference persisted even after allowing for smoking habits.