It’s long been debated whether intermittent fasting is good for us. Is it worth the hunger? Are there any actual health benefits from doing it?
Over the years, some people have claimed that this method has helped with rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments. Studies have also shown that intermittent fasting has improved multiple sclerosis in mice.
Well, there is more evidence that fasting may be beneficial to our health.
Three new studies explore how fasting might temporarily offer certain health benefits to humans. All three studies saw researchers give mice less food or go on a water-only diet for about a day. Each study researched a different type of immune cell and discovered that each type of cell had a unique response to the fasting.
Two of the three studies looked at the T and B cells. These cells help create immunity against past infections and identify and destroy pathogens. When the mice fasted, the T and B cells disappeared from the bloodstream and the organ tissues. The immune cells took shelter in the bone marrow to protect themselves. In other words, the cells migrated to the bone marrow, which is food rich, to survive during fasting.
The studies further showed that when the T cells did retreat to the bone marrow, they became supercharged. T cells produce molecules to kill pathogens and cancers, so this is potentially a very important find. When mice were injected with a pathogen they’d had in their bodies before, the fasting mice fought it off in only two days, as opposed to the week it took the regularly-fed mice.
Study author Dr. Yasmine Belkaid said, “It’s a striking enhancement. The goal is to [eventually] understand this magic soup in the bone marrow and extract what’s making that response. If we can train our cells to do these things, we can have an extraordinary impact on human health.”
The third study revolved around the white blood cells that attack pathogens. These are called monocytes. When you’re sick, this type of cell induces inflammation. This study showed that monocytes went down in the bloodstreams of both mice and humans when they fasted; the mice’s bone marrow was still producing monocytes, just not as many were being released into the bloodstream.
Fasting somehow creates a “roadblock” between bone marrow and blood for the monocyte cells. If fewer monocytes are moving throughout the body, overall inflammation goes down.
These studies suggest that intermittent fasting can be a good thing, and we can manipulate our immune systems based on changing how much we eat.
Something to think about…that’s for sure.