London: A new study suggests that going without food for twenty four hours may cut down the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

The tests during the study revealed that fasting triggers a significant surge in human growth hormone which speeds up metabolism and burns off fat.

However nutritionist Dr Emma Williams said, "I wouldn't be in a hurry to commence fasting, as the precise nature by which the body reacts to it remains relatively unknown."

Researchers have based their findings on an analysis of the health and habits of over 200 residents in the US state of Utah, where fasting for at least one day in a month is a way of life for many Mormons.

X-ray scans revealed narrowing of the arteries in around 75 per cent of those who didn't fast. In contrast, clogged arteries affected 63 per cent of those who often skipped meals.

To ensure the results were not only due to those who fast having healthier lifestyles, the researchers carried out a second study on people who were not regular fasters.

They did not eat or drink anything other than water for 24 hours and underwent a series of health checks. They were also monitored while eating normally.

Levels rose 13-fold in women and 20-fold in men. The fasting caused levels of cholesterol to rise but they returned to normal after the fast was over.