Fasting may help fight infections, study suggests

Fasting may help fight infections, study suggests

Intermittent fasting is all the rage. The diet, which restricts eating to certain hours, has gained traction as a way to lose weight and regulate hunger cues. Now, research is indicating fasting may do more than just cut caloric intake.

A mouse study from researchers in Canada has found that fasting can inhibit a particular strain of Salmonella, which is a leading cause of gastroenteritis in humans. The bacteria causes inflammation and tissue damage upon consumption.

Part of the reason behind the study is previous research around fasting and infection, which has been inconclusive. Despite the lack of evidence, therapeutic fasting has become popular among patients with chronic autoimmune disorders or autoinflammatory diseases.

In this study, two groups of mice were fed Salmonella. One group ate normally, and one fasted for 24 hours. The fasted mice showed minimal inflammation and tissue damage, while the group of mice that had not demonstrated advanced infection.

How did this happen? Researchers suspected gut bacteria.

Prior research has shown healthy, diverse gut bacteria colonies are important for many essential biological functions. The study’s authors suggest that when nutrients are in short supply, such as during fasting, the microbiome’s native bacteria consume anything else they can get their hands on — consequently starving the Salmonella interloper of the food it needs to expand and infect the healthy tissue.

Mice are not people, so a human’s fast of several days would trigger different consequences — some far from therapeutic. Until more research is conducted, keep feeding a cold. Leave starving a fever to the mice.

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