I’ve just finished a “Daniel Fast” and feel food. I was wondering if I could just keep following it indefinitely or whether if could cause me harm. L.E., the US, via Internet.
Dr. Olga Raz, head of the clinical nutrition department in the Health Sciences Faculty of Ariel University in Samaria, Israel, answers:
The Daniel Fast is a religious partial fast that is popular among Evangelical Protestants in the US in which meat, wine and other rich foods are avoided in favor of a vegan diet of vegetables and fruits (especially organic produce), unprocessed foods and water for typically three weeks. Protein-rich foods included on the Daniel Fast are brown rice, split peas, almonds, sunflower seeds, lentils, quinoa and some whole grains.
The fast is based on the lifelong kosher diet of the Jewish hero Daniel in the biblical Book of Daniel and the three-week mourning fast in which Daniel abstained from all meat and wine. According to two passages in the Bible, Daniel fasted twice. During the first fast, he ate only vegetables and water to set himself apart for God. For a second fast mentioned in a later chapter, Daniel stopped eating “royal foods” like meat, wine and other rich foods.
Moses himself fasted for 40 days when he climbed Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. The Bible has with more than 70 references to fasting, which as a practice has become more popular today.
A similar observance can be seen with the 40-day season of Lent that is observed by Orthodox, Catholic, and mainline Protestant Christians, though the Daniel Fast can be as short as 10 days.
A 21-day fast may have been a normal thing in those times, as people had difficulty getting food, but today, it seems to me very long, and I do not recommend it. The diet lacks vitamin B12, which is vital for the nervous system. When it comes to diet, moderation is the best advice.
I gave birth just five days ago to a healthy baby girl, 3.2 kilos. She is home. She sleeps a lot during the day but very little at night. I am breastfeeding, but she has gas. I leave a small light on in her room. What can be done so that she will sleep better at night? Should I not leave on a little light at night? What can be done to minimize the gas? S.L., Beersheba
Prof. Giora Pillar, chairman of the pediatrics department and head of the sleep clinic at Carmel Medical Center and vice dean for clinical promotions at the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine in Haifa, Israel, replies:
Both sleep and colic need some time to mature, and with the right habits, they improve over time. There are several “gas absorbers,” but there are conflicting data regarding their efficiency.
As for sleep during the night, keep the room dark even without a small light. But keep a small night light near you so you can turn it on quickly when you have to nurse the baby. With more light and activity during the day and less of those during nighttime, the baby’s healthy circadian rhythm is developed.
I am a 45-year-old woman who enjoys drinking all kinds of coffee – sometimes as many as 12 cups per day. I was wondering if it causes any harm to health. R.D., Nelson, New Zealand.
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich comments:
Many people around the world say they can’t get up in the morning and face the day without having a cup of coffee, and they go on to drink many more during the day. Various medical studies have suggested that drinking coffee – in moderation – can lower one’s risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, protect the liver from cirrhosis and even reduce the danger of depression and suicide.
While the pros and cons of drinking coffee have been debated for many years, new research from the University of South Australia reveals that drinking six or more coffees a day can be detrimental to your health, increasing your risk of heart disease by up to 22%.
In Australia, one in six people are affected by cardiovascular disease. It is a major cause of death with one person dying from the disease every 12 minutes. According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, yet one of the most preventable.
Investigating the association of long-term coffee consumption and cardiovascular disease, researchers Dr. Ang Zhou and Prof. Elina Hyppönen of the Australian Centre for Precision Health say their research confirms the point at which excess caffeine can cause high blood pressure, a precursor to heart disease. This is the first time an upper limit has been placed on safe coffee consumption and cardiovascular health.
“Coffee is the most commonly consumed stimulant in the world – it wakes us up, boosts our energy and helps us focus. An estimated three billion cups of coffee are enjoyed every day around the world. But people are always asking: “How much caffeine is too much?”
“Most people would agree that if you drink a lot of coffee, you might feel jittery, irritable or perhaps even nauseas. That’s because caffeine helps your body work faster and harder, but it is also likely to suggest that you may have reached your limit for the time being,” the researchers said. “We also know that risk of cardiovascular disease increases with high blood pressure, a known consequence of excess caffeine consumption.”
To maintain a healthy heart and a healthy blood pressure, people must limit their coffees to fewer than six cups a day – based on our data six was the tipping point where caffeine started to negatively affect cardiovascular risk,” they continued.
Using UK data of 347,077 participants aged 37 to 73 years, the study explored the ability of the caffeine-metabolizing gene (CYP1A2) to better process caffeine, identifying increased risks of cardiovascular disease in line with coffee consumption and genetic variations. Despite carriers of the fast-processing gene variation being four times quicker at metabolizing caffeine, the research does not support the belief that these people could safely consume more caffeine, more frequently, without detrimental health effects.
If you want an Israeli expert to answer your medical questions, write to Breaking Israel News health and science senior reporter Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at firstname.lastname@example.org with your initials, age, gender and place of residence and details of the medical condition, if any.