Lose Weight, Become a Saint

2016 Nobel Prize Winner Scientifically Proves that Fasting is Good for Health!


The Japanese Professor Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine this year, for discovering the processes of how cells deal with their contents. The process of autophagy (αυτο-φαγία) is a purely Greek word, meaning “self-eating”. When the organism is under stress (that is, has no access to substances it uses for its health – an example is fasting), it produces increased energy using its internal resources, consuming rubbish and even disease-producing bacteria that have accumulated inside it over the recent past. As a result, some of the cells cannot sustain the process of self-eating and die, whilst the majority gets rid of excess parts, and the whole organism (whether human or animal) gets rid of unnecessary cells. In the process new cells are formed, the organism is rejuvenated and therefore is also protected from senility. What is interesting, the Nobel Prize Committee confirmed the findings, and the fact that abstaining from food is wholesome – the body truly cleans itself.

The discovery has wider implications for human health than the health of the individual cell, rejuvenation of the whole organism and delay of the onset of senility. It has a beneficial effect on obesity in that it can cause the body to shed some of its mass, and therefore it has become a powerful tool in the hands of nutritionists.

For the Christian on the other hand, it confirms that fasting, abstaining from certain foods during certain periods of the year (see details in preceding issue of “Lychnos”, Vol 31, Issue 5, 2016), is of bodily as well as mental benefit, shown now to be proven even scientifically by Professor Ohsumi! But the exercise of fasting during Church ordained periods is not meant to benefit our body alone. During those periods, we are supposed to improve our spiritual lives i.e. pray longer and with more devotion, increase reading of the Bible and other spiritual books, suppress our passions (sins and sinful habits performed serially, and which we have little or no strength to control), attend more Church services, partake of the Sacraments more frequently, be more active in spreading the Gospel message, and perform more good works of love and sacrifice.

However, in spite of all the above, one wonders at the Supreme love of God for us, Who endowed His Church, with the wisdom to include fasting as one of the saving measures for man. Yes, Christ fasted first in the desert, but the subsequent details were ordained by the Holy Fathers through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It took humanity 21 centuries, to discover the wisdom of the benefits of fasting for our body. But the spiritual and more important benefits of fasting have been known since the time of Jesus Christ!

All Saints fasted avidly, almost all their lives. God was pleased with this, gave them enormous strength to advance in the Spirit, and declared them Saints by adorning their lives with extraordinary qualities and powers. Recall the enormous virtue and foresight of St Paisios. Monks eat twice a day, and nutritionists lately started advising obese patients to eat twice a day! And the same is suggested by the “self-eating” theory (above). It is exceptional to find an obese or even overweight monk. The majority die quite old!

We, who are blessed to belong to the Orthodox Church, thank and glorify God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who helped us to continue the holy practice of fasting, and pray that our brothers and sisters in other Christian Communities, may return to this saving and God ordained measure. Who knows – one day some of them may end-up as saints!


Source: Lychnos December 2016 / January 2017