Immune responses may determine healthy metabolism while fasting


New European research has focused on how immune cells in the liver contribute to metabolic homeostasis during fasting in healthy individuals.

The study, conducted by researchers at Helmholtz Munich, Ulm University, the Technical University of Munich, the German Center for Diabetes Research, the Heidelberg University Hospital, and the University of Southern Denmark, was published in the journal, Cell Metabolism.

Researchers scanned the DNA of liver cells and immune cells, examining which parts of their DNA were active and which molecules were being released as a result. The results of the study showed that these cells were communicating with one another and highlighted the role of the molecule, glucocorticoid receptor.

"We discovered that in the immune cells, this receptor, in particular, allowed the crosstalk between the cell types during fasting,” said Anne Loft, PhD, first author of the study from Helmholtz Munich in a statement. “By deleting the receptor only in the immune cells, we saw a breakdown of fasting signals in the liver cells. This means that the immune cells are able to directly influence the effect of fasting on our metabolism.”

In addition, researchers found that a low level of immune activity, or inflammation, is necessary for a balanced metabolic response to fasting.

Integrative practitioners who recommend fasting as part of their treatment plans can refer to this research as they create fasting-based therapies for their patients.