Scientists have discovered how fasting like UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak prevents inflammation.
The Prime Minister recently revealed that he fasts for 36 hours every week, consuming only water, tea, or coffee from around 5 pm on a Sunday until 5 am on a Tuesday.
“I tend to try and do some fasting at the beginning of every week as part of a general balanced lifestyle. But everyone will do this differently,” said UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
While this may sound like a nightmare to many, new research suggests that the Tory MP might be onto something. Experts from the University of Cambridge have discovered that fasting may help reduce inflammation – a potentially damaging side effect of the body’s immune system.
Although inflammation is part of our natural response to injury or infection, it can also be triggered unintentionally via a multiprotein called ‘inflammasome’. Inflammasome has previously been linked to various chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Type 2 Diabetes, and Parkinson’s.
However, the team’s new paper, published in Cell Reports, found that fasting or restricting calorie intake can reduce the activity of inflammasome. It does this by raising levels of a chemical in the blood known as arachidonic acid, which in turn works to prevent inflammation.
A team at the University of Cambridge conducted this research alongside the National Institute for Health in the USA by studying blood samples from a group of 21 volunteers.
The participants ate a 500kcal meal, fasted for 24 hours, and then consumed a second 500kcal meal. Results showed that restricting calorie intake increased the lipid known as arachidonic acid, which reduced the activity of the NLRP3 inflammasome. And, as soon as members of the group ate a meal again, levels of arachidonic acid dropped – meaning there was less of a barrier against inflammation.
Scientists have known for some time that our diet, particularly a high-calorie Western diet, can increase our risk of diseases linked to inflammation in the body. But until now, no one has been able to explain why this is the case.
“What’s become apparent over recent years is that one inflammasome in particular – the NLRP3 inflammasome – is very important in several major diseases such as obesity and atherosclerosis, but also in diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, which mostly affect older age people in the Western world,” said Professor Bryant, who works in the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge.
“Our research provides a potential explanation for how changing our diet – in particular by fasting – protects us from inflammation, especially the damaging form that underpins many diseases related to a Western high-calorie diet,” she added.
Professor Byrant said it was too soon to say whether fasting can be used as a tool to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but further research could head that way. “It’s too early to say whether fasting protects against diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” she explained, “but our work adds to a growing amount of scientific literature that points to the health benefits of calorie restriction.
“It suggests that regular fasting over a long period could help reduce the chronic inflammation we associate with these conditions. It’s certainly an attractive idea,” she continued.
The team believes that their study may also explain some of the beneficial effects of drugs such as aspirin. Normally, arachidonic acid is broken down rapidly in the body, but aspirin stops this process. This can lead to an increase in levels of arachidonic acid, which reduces inflammasome activity and therefore reduces inflammation.
But Professor Bryant added: “It’s important to stress that aspirin should not be taken to reduce risk of long-term diseases without medical guidance, as it can have side-effects such as stomach bleeds if taken over a long period.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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