MEDICINE AND HEALTH

Intermittent fasting improves immunity


Intermittent fasting could make immune cells more effective in fighting pathogens and cancers

Intermittent fasting makes immune cells more effective at fighting pathogens and cancer

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Nok Lek Travel Lifestyle

In recent years, intermittent fasting has become all the rage because of its ability to deprive the body of glucose, forcing the body to break down fat and produce an alternative source of energy called ketones that promotes weight loss. Intermittent fasting can also boost immunity and help fight disease. The researchers found in mice that when ketones were used as an energy source, immune cells were more effective at fighting off infections and cancer.

It is generally accepted that cells prefer glucose as a source of energy. However, Russell Jones and colleagues at the Van Andel Institute in Michigan previously found that certain immune cells called T cells that fight pathogens don’t produce much energy from glucose.

“We thought it was weird,” Jones said. “These cells require a lot of energy. However, what do they use as a source of energy? ”

Jones and colleagues collected data from three other studies that analyzed T cell responses to infection and tumors from a genetic perspective. They found that potent T cells were more active in genes involved in breaking down ketones than dysfunctional T cells, suggesting that they get energy from ketones as they fight disease.

The researchers genetically engineered three mice so that they could not break down ketones and compared their response to infection to an equal number of mice that could break down ketones. They found that, on average, normal mice had 50 percent more T cells than genetically modified people, which produce substances to kill pathogens, called cytokines, and that the animals also produced more cytokines per T. In other words, the ability to break down ketones makes T cells more effective at fighting infections in mice. Or, as Jones puts it, the ability to break down ketones increases the number of frontline soldiers and ammunition.

Jones’ team also injected cancer cells into mice. After 22 days, they found that mice that couldn’t break down ketones had twice as many tumors as mice that could break down ketones.

Jones said the findings suggest that immune cells are more effective at fighting disease when ketones are used instead of glucose as a source of energy for ability.

Satchidananda Panda of the Salk Institute for Biological Research in California, who was not involved in the study, said they also explained why previous studies have shown that fasting for 12 hours or more a day can improve immune function in mice.

The results can also help understand how dietary interventions that promote ketone production, such as intermittent fasting, may affect our ability to fight off infections and cancer, Jones said. However, he cautions that not all ketone-producing diets have the same effects. For example, a low-carb ketogenic diet may impair immunity because high levels of fat suppress immune production. (Source: China Science News Guo Yueying)

Related paper information:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.immuni.2023.07.002



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