Intermittent fasting has shown many health benefits in the past, including a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease. Now researchers from Intermountain Healthcare have found that people who fast regularly are less likely to develop serious complications from COVID-19.
In a new study published this week BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, Intermountain researchers found that COVID-19 patients who regularly practiced intermittent fasting with only water had a lower risk of being hospitalized or dying from the virus.
“Intermittent fasting has already been shown to reduce inflammation and improve heart health. In this study, we find additional benefits for combating infection with COVID-19 in patients who have been fasting for decades,” Benjamin Horn, PhD, Director of Cardiovascular and Genetic Epidemiology at Intermountain Healthcare.
In the Intermountain study, researchers identified patients enrolled in the INSPIRE registry, a voluntary health registry at Intermountain Healthcare, who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 between March 2020 and February 2021 – before vaccines became widely available. were readily available.
They identified 205 patients who had tested positive for the virus. 73 of them stated that they regularly fast at least once a month. The researchers found that those who fasted regularly had lower rates of hospitalization or mortality from the coronavirus.
“Intermittent fasting was not associated with whether someone tested positive for COVID-19, but it was associated with a lower degree of severity than when patients tested positive for it,” said Dr. Horn.
In the Intermountain study, participants who reported fasting regularly did so for an average of over 40 years. Intermountain researchers had the opportunity to closely examine this particular group of long-term intermittent fasts because a large proportion of their patients regularly fast for religious reasons.
About 62 percent of Utah’s population belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members typically fast on the first Sunday of the month by eating twice in a row without eating or drinking.
while dr Horn said more research is needed to understand why intermittent fasting is linked to better COVID-19 outcomes, saying it’s most likely due to the many ways it affects the body.
For example, fasting reduces inflammation, especially since hyperinflammation is associated with poorer COVID-19 outcomes. In addition, after 12 to 14 hours of fasting, the body uses glucose in the blood to convert it into ketones, including linoleic acid.
“SARS-CoV-2 has a pocket on its surface that linoleic acid fits in — and the virus may be less able to attach to other cells,” he said.
Another potential benefit is that intermittent fasting promotes autophagy, which “is the body’s recycling system that helps your body destroy and recycle damaged and infected cells,” said Dr. Horn.
dr Horn emphasizes that these results apply to people who have been intermittent fasting for decades – not weeks – and anyone who wants to consider the practice should consult their doctor first, especially if they are elderly, pregnant or have a medical condition such as z Diabetes, heart or kidney disease.
The researchers also stressed that intermittent fasting should not be seen as a substitute for a COVID vaccination.
“It should be further evaluated for possible short- and long-term preventive or therapeutic use as an adjunct approach to vaccines and antiviral treatments to reduce the severity of COVID-19,” said Dr. Horn.