New research suggests that fasting and dieting has an anti-inflammatory mechanism that could ward off type 2 diabetes and Alzheimers disease.
The study, conducted at the Yale School of Medicine, found that when we diet and fast our bodies produce a compound that suppresses a part of the immune system responsible for a number of inflammatory disorders, such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), and Alzheimer’s disease.
The compound is known as Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), and the protein it blocks is called NLRP3. NLRP3 is part of a set of proteins called the inflammasomen, which triggers the inflammation that causes several health problems, including type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
BHB is produced by fasting, intense exercise, low calorie intake, and a low-carbohydrate diet. Previous research has established that fasting reduced inflammation, but this is the first study to examine how immune cells respond to low glucose availability.
The study was conducted on mouse models of inflammatory diseases – such as type 2 diabetes – that were caused by NLRP3. The researchers provided the models with BHB, which reduced inflammation. Introducing a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet also reduced inflammation, probably because it increases the levels of BHB in the blood.
Vishwa Deep Dixit, professor of Comparative Medicine at Yale School of Medicine, said: “These findings are important because endogenous metabolites like BHB that block the NLRP3 inflammasome could be relevant against many inflammatory diseases, including those where there are mutations in the NLRP3 genes.
“Our results suggest that the endogenous metabolites like BHB that are produced during low-carb dieting, fasting, or high-intensity exercise can lower the NLRP3 inflammasome.”
The study was published online in Nature Medicine.

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