The Application: Overview
Although true Christian fasting should always be about developing a stronger relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ, it is now well-documented that periods of fasting promote multiple beneficial changes in human health. For example, a variety of fasting methods have been used with success in an attempt to improve markers of physical health, as well as to extend lifespan (the latter effect noted specifically in research with animals).
With regards to “fasting” protocols aimed at improving health, the most well-studied approach is referred to as “caloric restriction.” This plan calls for a reduction in caloric intake—typically by 20 – 40% of ad libitum consumption—while maintaining adequate nutrient intake in order to sustain good health. This approach to feeding has been reported in multiple studies to extend lifespan in species as diverse as fruit flies, dogs, and monkeys. Caloric restriction also reduces the development and progression of multiple diseases, including but not limited to: autoimmune diseases, atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathies, cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and respiratory diseases. Due to the impressive findings, there are many devote followers of this eating plan, for which a “calorie restriction society” has been formed.
Aside from caloric restriction, two other options in particular have received attention in recent years. The first is referred to as “alternate-day fasting.” This form of fasting consists of two interchanging days. On one day, individuals may consume food ad libitum (sometimes equaling twice the normal intake). On the following day, food is reduced significantly or withheld altogether. Therefore, this is somewhat of a “feast” and “famine” approach. Unlike caloric restriction models in which individuals typically reduce body weight, the feast days associated with the alternate day fasting sometimes allow individuals/animals to maintain body weight over time. However, the health related and life-extending benefits of the two plans appear similar.
The second alternative to caloric restriction is referred to as “dietary restriction.” This involves the restriction of one or more components of normal food intake (typically a macronutrient—protein in particular) with minimal to no reduction in total caloric intake. While the data indicate that neither carbohydrate nor lipid restriction extend lifespan, protein restriction does increase maximum lifespan by roughly 20%. It is presently thought that this may be due to the reduction of the amino acid methionine. The majority of these data have been generated using animal models; therefore, well-controlled studies involving human subjects are needed.
With regards to the above discussion of dietary restriction, and in particular protein restriction, the Daniel Fast falls into this category of fasting. Based on our initial findings, it is clear that multiple health-related outcomes improve when human subjects modify their food intake in accordance with the Daniel Fast guidelines. Please see Ongoing Research and Published Research for specifics.
Can the Daniel Fast help the average person?
Simply put, the food intake guidelines of the Daniel Fast appear to promote enhanced health. This statement is based on our initial findings, coupled with the anecdotal reports of thousands of individuals. Of course, long-term studies are needed to determine the impact of the Daniel Fast eating regimen on the development of disease over time. As of now, no such controlled scientific data are available addressing this issue. Only future, well-designed studies may provide such data.
With the above understanding, it remains prudent to consider adopting a dietary approach similar to the Daniel Fast guidelines, with the understanding that an improvement in body weight, body mass index, blood pressure, blood lipids, blood antioxidant capacity and oxidative stress levels, as well as markers of blood glucose control and inflammation may be observed. Within human subjects following this plan, positive findings are ubiquitous, in that all individuals benefit with regards to at least some of the above variables. Therefore, it is likely that food intake following the Daniel Fast guidelines will very likely lead to improved health over time in most individuals. As with all nutrition plans, individuals should seek the guidance and approval of a qualified health care provider before changing their dietary intake. This is particularly important for individuals with a diagnosed medical condition, as well as for those who use prescription medications. If you are considering adopting the Daniel Fast dietary approach, please make certain to first consult with your personal physician or other qualified health care provider.
Aside from the improvement in health related outcomes, adherence to the Daniel Fast provides a default nutrition education. That is, purchasing Daniel Fast compliant foods and preparing Daniel Fast compliant recipes requires careful attention to food labels and food components. Labels need to be read and understood, and food choices need to be thoroughly considered prior to use. This is clearly an eye-opening experience for many individuals partaking in a Daniel Fast. The knowledge gained during this forced nutrition education is knowledge that will remain, with application to all future food choices whether Daniel Fast friendly or not. In fact, many individuals decide to drastically alter what they regularly consume after having completed a Daniel Fast and having a better understanding of what is contained within the foods most commonly consumed. They very often choose natural, nutrient dense foods rather than processed and refined foods. Such a change in eating may act to improve long-term health. This nutrition education and understanding, which is unfortunately lacking in our society, is perhaps one of the most beneficial aspects of the Daniel Fast approach to eating.
Can the Daniel Fast guidelines be modified?
When reviewing available information pertaining to the Daniel Fast, understand that such information is typically written with the idea that individuals are embarking on a Daniel Fast for spiritual purposes. Therefore, the guidelines are strictly maintained. However, if individuals are considering this eating plan specifically for purposes of improving health, and are planning for long-term adherence, they may consider some slight modifications to the plan. In this case, the plan becomes more of a Daniel diet than a Daniel Fast.
Such modifications might include the occasional intake of lean meats and dairy products. For example, a lunch or dinner meal of fish, poultry, or lean red meat two or three times per week would be reasonable. Likewise, egg whites or milk with a breakfast meal, or cottage cheese or yogurt for a snack during the day would be fine on occasion. Finally, because the issue of most concern for many individuals is the exclusion of caffeine from the Daniel Fast plan, consumption of small amounts of caffeine in the form of coffee, tea, and other beverages may be considered. While such modifications are certainly not necessary, they may enhance long-term compliance for certain individuals—and this is very important when following a dietary program. Moreover, it is unlikely that these subtle changes to the traditional Daniel Fast plan will drastically alter the health-related outcomes. Again, this only applies to those individuals considering this eating plan as a dietary approach to enhanced health. For those following the Daniel Fast for spiritual purposes, the traditional plan (or whatever plan individuals feel as though God is calling them to do) should be followed.
For additional information related to the adoption of the Daniel Fast plan as a lifestyle approach, please see The Daniel Cure: The Daniel Fast Way to Vibrant Health (Zondervan, 2013).
The Absolute Importance of Planning
Individuals should consider experimenting with the plan for a period of several weeks to determine for themselves whether or not this plan may be best for them. In doing so, it should be clearly understood that a detailed plan of action must be in place if the plan is to be successfully followed. The appropriate foods need to be purchased, prepared, and packaged (assuming individuals are leaving the home during the day or night). It is very difficult to purchase Daniel Fast friendly meals at traditional restaurants.
It should be noted that most if not all foods can be purchased at the local grocery store—there is little need to shop at specialty health food stores, unless this is desired. Once the core foods and meals are purchased and prepared a few times, adherence to the eating plan is really not very challenging at all. Like most things in life, the plan clearly becomes easier with time. Please see www.daniel-fast.com or www.danielcure.com for more information.
How to be Successful
When it comes to life, the answer is simple: Find out what God wants you to do, and then do it. When it comes to the Daniel Fast, forethought and planning are paramount. Several excellent resources are available describing the Daniel Fast, the specific foods allowed and disallowed, as well as helpful tips on how to plan for a successful fast. Please consider reading The Daniel Cure: The Daniel Fast Way to Vibrant Health (Zondervan, 2013), which provided a wealth of information to help you in your quest for improved health through food.