Researchers at the University of Cambridge have uncovered a novel way that fasting reduces inflammation, an adverse immune system consequence that exacerbates chronic illnesses.
According to the study, fasting increases blood levels of an acid called arachidonic acid, which is essential for reducing inflammation. This discovery may potentially clarify the effectiveness of several medications, such as aspirin.
Dietary factors’ effects on inflammation
Diet, especially a high-calorie Western diet, has long been linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. These disorders are frequently linked to the body’s ongoing inflammation.
Although it is a normal reaction to damage or illness, the inflammasome can also cause inflammation. This part of the cell functions as an alert system, causing inflammation to start in order to defend the body from perceived harm. It can, however, also inadvertently cause inflammation, which can result in the release of cell contents that intensify inflammatory reactions.
Recognizing persistent inflammation
Chronic inflammation must be understood, according to Professor Clare Bryant of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Medicine.
“We’re very interested in trying to understand the causes of chronic inflammation in the context of many human diseases, and in particular the role of the inflammasome,” stated Professor Bryant.
“What’s become apparent over recent years is that one inflammasome in particular – the NLRP3 inflammasome – is very important in a number of major diseases such as obesity and atherosclerosis, but also in diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, many of the diseases of older age people, particularly in the Western world.”
The acid arachidonic
Although it is well established that fasting lowers inflammation, the underlying mechanisms are yet unknown. Professor Bryant’s group conducted a study with 21 volunteers in order to look into this, working with colleagues at the National Institute for Health.
After a 500 calorie lunch, the participants fasted for a full day before having another 500 calorie meal. The lipid arachidonic acid, which is involved in energy storage and intercellular communication, was found to be elevated in response to calorie restriction. Interestingly, arachidonic acid levels dropped when subjects started eating again.
crucial new revelations
After analyzing arachidonic acid’s effects on immune cells in a laboratory setting, the researchers discovered that it lowers NLRP3 inflammasome activity. Since it was previously believed that arachidonic acid exacerbated inflammation, this conclusion was unexpected.
Professor Bryant said, “This 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,”
More investigation is required
“It’s too early to say whether fasting protects against diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease as the effects of arachidonic acid are only short-lived, 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,” according to Professor Bryant.
Additionally, a high-calorie diet may increase the risk of illnesses by activating more inflammasomes, according to the study.
Professor Bryant speculated that, “There could be a yin and yang effect going on here, whereby too much of the wrong thing is increasing your inflammasome activity and too little is decreasing it,” “Arachidonic acid could be one way in which this is happening.”
medications that reduce inflammation
Moreover, the results may clarify the surprising mechanism of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. Aspirin prevents arachidonic acid from being broken down, which may reduce inflammation and inflammasome activity.
Professor Bryant emphasized that ,“It’s important to stress that aspirin should not be taken to reduce risk of long terms diseases without medical guidance as it can have side-effects such as stomach bleeds if taken over a long period,”