Page 40 - April 2021
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         India’s Ancient Wisdom Repackaged for Modern Times
The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine recognised immense health benefits of fasting or upavas, a practise observed by Hindus since time immemorial
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Upavas or fasting along with yoga and meditation have central position in the Hindu way of life. This helps in rejuvenation and fight against diseases by strengthening im- munity. This Indian knowledge system has received respect from the West when scientific research coined the term ‘inter- mittent fasting’ for which the Japanese
cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2016.
Ohsumi’s work elucidated the meth- od by which cells recycle and renew their content though a process called autoph- agy. His main finding was that during fasting, autophagy is activated, which helps in slowing down the aging process, has a positive impact on cell renewal, improves body immunity, and even helps in weight loss.
Most of the religions in the world follow fasting of different styles. For ex- ample, Muslims and Christians follow fasting for one month during one year. However, in Hinduism, there are dif- ferent types of fasting in a week, such as fasting on Mondays by women, fast-
ing on Thursdays, Saturdays, on full moon days, etc, as prayer to particular gods, in which regular meals are taken only once a day except a few snacks in between, and avoiding food at night. The duration of fasting varies from 12-20 hours, depending on the days’ importance.
Ohsumi termed the observance of fasting as intermittent fasting. He discov- ered that degraded parts of cells are re- cycled and cell contents renewed through a process called autophagy.
Hindus have been observing fasting, or upavas, from time immemorial as a sacred religious practice, formulated by insights of spiritual leaders and rishis of India. Such practices have attained
 40 SCIENCE INDIA APRIL, 2021
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