Can a dietary pattern described in an ancient Biblical text have relevance to the growing issues of obesity, diabetes and heart disease? Can something very old still be new and fresh and provide a roadmap to improving our communal health? With these thoughts in mind, the Book of Daniel may provide important clues validated by recent medical studies.
In Chapter 10 of the Book of Daniel it is described that Prophet Daniel elected to follow a simple diet rather than partake in the king’s food as described “I ate no delicacies, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” After those 21 days, Daniel appeared healthier.
Fast forward a few thousand years, and medical researchers are now studying the impact this biblical diet can have on our health, the so called Daniel Diet. The plan is a plant-based program inclusive of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils. No caffeine, alcohol, additives, or preservatives are allowed. It is often referred to a pulse diet emphasizing the ingestion of legumes. Participants partake in the plan for a period of 21 days, often as part of a religiously motivated fasting period.
In 2010, researchers from the University of Memphis embarked on a series of studies on the diet. In the first study, 43 subjects were examined before and after the 21-day period. They found that cholesterol fell from an average of 171 mg/dl to 139 mg/dl, LDL cholesterol from 98 to 76 mg/dl and systolic blood pressure from 115 mmHg to 106 mmHg. At the same time, inflammation as measured by the C-reactive protein also fell from 3.1 to 1.6 mg/L, and calories dropped from 2,185 daily to 1,722. The researchers noted that tolerance of the plan was high, and there were no side effects.
The researchers then reported the diet’s impact on antioxidant and oxidative stress markers, important factors in overall health. The same subjects showed improved markers of antioxidant status with lower oxidative stress — think of this as rusting of the body — after 21 days on the program. In other words, the diet was a great source of natural vitamins and antioxidants, no supplements needed.
In a separate group of 39 subjects on the 21-day program, the scientists measured “cardiometabolic,” or heart metabolism, factors. They found that weight dropped 5.5 pounds on average, insulin sensitivity improved, insulin levels fell toward normal, and blood sugars fell from 101 mg/dl to 92 mg/dl.
We are suffering an epidemic of chronic disease in the U.S. Along with movement, exercise, stress management, and avoiding tobacco, the key is to change our dietary habits. The Book of Daniel provides an ancient, yet still relevant, path to success that has recent scientific validation. Have a little faith and give it a try.