Fasting reduces inflammation, improves chronic inflammatory diseases

Fasting may reduce inflammation and improve chronic inflammatory diseases without affecting the immune system's response to acute infections, according to a new study by researchers at Mount Sinai in New York and published in the journal Cell.

While acute inflammation is a normal immune process that helps fight off infections, chronic inflammation can have serious consequences for health, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel diseases, said Miriam Merad, MD, PhD, senior author and director of the Precision Immunology Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Working with human and mouse immune cells, Merad and colleagues showed that intermittent fasting reduced the release of pro-inflammatory cells called monocytes in blood circulation. Further investigations revealed that during periods of fasting, these cells go into "sleep mode" and are less inflammatory than monocytes found in those who were fed.

Monocytes are highly inflammatory immune cells that can cause serious tissue damage, said Merad, and the population has seen an increasing amount in their blood circulation as a result of eating habits that humans have acquired in recent centuries.

Considering the broad spectrum of diseases that are caused by chronic inflammation and the increasing number of patients affected by these diseases, there is an enormous potential in investigating the anti-inflammatory effects of fasting, according to Stefan Jordan, PhD, first author and postdoctoral fellow.

Researchers said they plan to continue trying to decipher the molecular mechanisms by which fasting improves inflammatory diseases, which could lead to novel preventive therapeutic strategies for the treatment of many human diseases.