How fasting benefits the human immune system
Fasting has been shown to improve metabolism, prevent or slow disease and possibly increase life span. This healthy practice is far from new. Around the world the pious have been fasting for millennia
A recent study published in the journal Immunology Letters suggests that the timing of meals can improve your immune system and reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection or illness.
"Intermittent fasting increases the rate of autophagy [cell recycling] and, therefore, decreases the amount of inflammation in the body," says Jamal Uddin, Ph.D., a co-author of the study.
"This in turn lets the immune system more efficiently spend its resources fighting off illness."
In a nutshell, the extended calorie drought prompts your body to look for a refuel by converting damaged cells into nutrients, which reduces inflammation caused by those cells, says Herman Pontzer, Ph.D., the author of Burn, a new look at metabolism.
The Math Behind Fasting
What time frame triggers this calorie-restricted signal to the body? An earlier analysis of intermittent fasting in the New England Journal of Medicine found that fitting meals into six-or eight-hour windows (say, from noon to 6 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.) is beneficial in reducing inflammation compared with a typical day of eating, but a 12-hour window is less so, says Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a coauthor of the study.
How to Try Intermittent Fasting
If you're looking to shrink your eating window, Mattson suggests you do so gradually to acclimate with fewer hunger pangs. If a six- or eight-hour eating period is your aim, Spano recommends "making your meals nutrient dense and eating a meal at the start of your window, in the middle, and at the end."
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk, and are encouraged to pray and worship more than other months of the year.
If you are like most people, you may be used to eating three meals each day. But there is little evidence that this is good for you. To the contrary, doing so may contribute to obesity and diabetes.
On the other hand, the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of intermittent fasting have been proven.
Fasting changes the function of cells, genes and hormones. When you don’t eat for a while, several things happen in your body. For example, your body initiates important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible.
Fasting can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Oxidative stress is one of the steps towards aging and many chronic diseases.