Fasting helps boost immunity, curb intestinal inflammation: Study


The next time your mother wants to fast, don’t stop her. A new study says the age-old practice of fasting could help boost immunity and control intestinal inflammation. The research is on a subject termed as Caloric Restriction (CR).

“CR in the form of fasting has been used in traditional medicinal practices such as homoeopathy, naturopathy, Ayurveda for treating various ailments. However, complete understanding about how CR benefits our health system has been unknown so far,” said Nooruddin Khan of the Hyderabad Central University (HCU), who is part of the study.

The team of researchers, headed by Bali Pulendran from Emory University Atlanta, USA, found a mechanism of body’s ability to adapt to nutrient scarcity.

“It appears that limiting nutrients would be a great booster of vaccine-induced immunity and protective of intestinal inflammation,” he said.

The authors of the study have identified a gene, whose activation in key immune cells was found to be a sign of a robust, protective immune response.

The gene was identified while studying immune responses to the yellow fever vaccine through genome-wide ‘systems biology’ approaches.

“The gene identified was GCN2 (General Controlled Non-repressedkinase), which is a known metabolic sensor involved in sensing amino acid starvation and found to regulate the process of autophagy, a response to starvation or stress within cells,” he said.

The results were published in the journal Science earlier.

The results categorically showed that GCN2 is critical for the induction of immunity to the yellow fever vaccine and suggested that vaccine additives that are effective in stimulating GCN2 and autophagy, would be especially potent in stimulating immunity.

The team comprising Khan and others has shown that “low protein diet or drugs that mimic its effects on immune cells could be tools for the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis”.

The work has been published in the journal Nature on March 16, Khan said.

“In the paper published in Nature, the researchers have shown that GCN2 dependent amino acid sensing pathway plays a critical role in sensing changing nutrient levels in the gut and further helps in maintaining the immunological balance of the body,” Khan, accompanied by Dean of Life
Sciences in HCU Prof Reddennna, said.

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