Many health advantages of fasting have been reported. However, a recent mouse study raises the possibility that there may be a trade-off in the form of weakened immunity. The research discovered that during fasting, immune cells moved from the animals’ circulation to their bone marrow. Also, they surged back when eating resumed.
When food is scarce, hunger causes a hormonal stress response in the brain that may force the immune system to save resources. Although it hasn’t been proven, research suggests that habitually skipping breakfast may weaken a person’s immune system.
Although many people refer to breakfast as “the most important meal of the day,” scientific evidence on the consequences of skipping breakfast on health is still ambiguous.
It is widely acknowledged that breakfast is “the most essential meal of the day,”. However, scientific study on the consequences of skipping breakfast for your health has not yet reached a firm conclusion.
Contrary to popular belief, numerous studies have discovered that regular midday fasting. They are often known as “time-restricted feeding,” provides several health advantages. For instance, research indicates that calorie restriction and fasting are associated with a lower risk of age-related diseases such hypertension, atherosclerosis, obesity, and diabetes.
Yet, a recent investigation using mice raises the possibility that fasting has drawbacks. According to the study, animals who weren’t allowed to feed in the hours after they got up experienced a dramatic decline in the amount of circulating immune cells.
The study’s lead author, Filip Swirski, Ph.D., says there is growing recognition that fasting is healthy and that there is ample data supporting its advantages. He continues, “Our study offers a word of caution as it implies that there may potentially be a cost to fasting that carries a health risk.
How fasting affects immune cells?
Because they are nocturnal, mice spend the day dormant and only go scavenging at night. The researchers contrasted mice with unlimited access to food with mice with limited access to food in the hours after the onset of activity.
Monocytes, a type of immune cell, were found in lower concentrations in fasting mice bloodstream after only four hours. Monocytes are produced in the bone marrow and are typically seen scouring the body for infections. Moreover, the cells are involved in tissue healing and inflammation.
Further research by the researchers demonstrated that during fasting periods, immune cells returned from the bloodstream to the bone marrow. Yet as soon as feeding resumed, monocytes flowed back into the blood. This causes monocytosis, a condition in which there are abnormally large quantities of these immune cells.
According to Dr. Swirski, the study shows that, on the one hand, fasting reduces the amount of circulating monocytes. One may believe is a good thing because these cells are major components of inflammation”. However, the return of food causes a spike in the number of monocytes in the blood, which can be dangerous, he continues.
Fasting elicits a stress response in the brain
The relationship between the brain and monocytes when fasting was also investigated. Scientists discovered that being without food increases the brain’s stress response, which immediately causes a massive movement of monocytes from the blood into the bone marrow and back into the bloodstream after reintroducing food. According to the experts, this stress reaction to fasting also causes people to feel “hangry” (hungry and angry).
As food is reintroduced, a burst of monocytes returns to the circulation, which increases the hazards associated with fasting. According to the experts, fasting may have an impact on the body’s ability to fight against an infection in this way.
Fighting off infection
The effectiveness of mice’s capacity to fend off an illness was also evaluated by the researchers. They gave the mice a 24-hour fast, followed by a 4-hour feeding period, and then infected them with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that frequently causes pneumonia in hospitals.
The mice who fasted died earlier and in greater numbers than mice that had unlimited access to food throughout, possibly as a result of an increase in pulmonary inflammation.
It will be crucial to comprehend precisely how fasting affects monocytes because, as Dr. Swirski points out, they also play a significant role in diseases like heart disease and cancer. Further research by the researchers demonstrated that fasting altered the mice’s brains, which in turn caused the release of the stress hormone corticosterone.
The immune system called the immune cells back to the bone marrow in response to this stress signal. At times of resource constraint, this might aid the animals in resource conservation. The study demonstrates that the immunological and neurological systems interact, according to Dr. Swirski.
Costs and benefits of fasting
The benefits of fasting are well supported by evidence, according to Dr. Swirski. The latest study, he claimed, shows that there might nonetheless be a price. The balance between cost and benefit is what’s at risk in this situation, he claimed.
More measured kinds of fasting and controlled refeeding, as opposed to feasting after fasting, may be the key to striking a balance between the drawbacks and advantages, he suggested.
It is too soon to say whether studies done on mice, like the one mentioned above, have any relevance to people who skip breakfast or fast to lose weight. Dr. Swirski drew attention to several studies, however, which revealed that fasting also lowers blood monocyte levels in people.
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