According to a recent study, fasting diets may raise the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
As it turns out, skipping breakfast, for instance, can actually harm the immune system and make it harder for the body to fight against infection.
The study, which was conducted on mice, is among the first to demonstrate, according to researchers, that missing meals causes a brain reaction that has a detrimental effect on immune cells.
The results could help us truly grasp the long term effects of persistent fasting on the body.
In the beginning, researchers wanted to know more about how the immune system is impacted by fasting for any length of time, from only a few hours to the stricter, 24 hour fasts.
They examined two groups of mice: one that consumed breakfast immediately after waking up, and the other that did not.
Blood samples were collected both 4 hours and 8 hours after waking up.
The number of white blood cells known as monocytes, which are produced in the bone marrow and circulate throughout the body where they serve a number of crucial tasks, including combating infections, heart disease, and cancer, was different in the fasting group.
90 percent of these cells were found to have vanished from the circulation of the mice that had been fasting, and the percentage continued to fall after 8 hours. The non-fasting group’s monocytes, however, were unaffected.
The cells returned to the bone marrow to hibernate in the mice that fasted, and the bone marrow’s capacity to produce new cells declined.
The cells matured differently from the monocytes that remained in the circulation and lived longer as a result of remaining in the bone marrow.
The scientists apparently continued to fast one of the mice groups for up to 24 hours before reintroducing food.
Within a few hours, the cells that had been hidden in the bone marrow burst back into the bloodstream, intensifying the inflammation.
According to the researchers, these changed monocytes were more inflammatory rather than anti-infectious, weakening the body’s ability to fight infection.
Filip Swirski, the study’s lead author, shared that “There’s a growing awareness that fasting is healthy, and there’s indeed abundant evidence for some benefits of fasting. Our study, however, provides a word of caution as it suggests there might also be a cost to fasting that carries a health risk. This’s a mechanistic study delving into some of the fundamental biology relevant to fasting. he study shows that there is a conversation between the nervous and immune systems. Because these cells are this important to other diseases like heart disease or cancer, understanding how their function is controlled is critical.”
The researchers also discovered that particular parts of the brain were in charge of regulating the monocyte response to fasting.
The results showed that fasting triggers a stress response in the brain, which may be the cause of that pesky “hangry” feeling.
As soon as food is reintroduced, this causes a significant movement of these white blood cells from the circulation to the bone marrow and back to the bloodstream.
The researchers claim that more research is required in order to fully comprehend and explore their findings.