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Dieting, Fasting Help Fight Inflammatory Diseases

Feb 17, 2015 04:01 PM EST

Dieting and fasting may be a little extreme when it comes to losing weight, but it may work just fine in helping to fight inflammatory diseases, according to a new study.

When the body is deprived of food, such as the case when fasting and with certain diets, it releases a compound called β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) that directly inhibits NLRP3, which is part of a complex set of proteins called the inflammasome. The inflammasome drives the inflammatory response in several disorders including autoimmune diseases, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, and autoinflammatory disorders.

"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," Vishwa Deep Dixit, one of the researchers at the Yale School of Medicine, said in a statement.

BHB is a metabolite produced by the body in response to fasting, high-intensity exercise, caloric restriction, or consumption of the low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet.

While it is well-known among scientists that fasting and calorie restriction help to reduce inflammation in the body, they weren't sure how immune cells respond and adapt when glucose is less available, and if the cells can respond to metabolites produced from fat oxidation.

To get to the bottom of this question, the researchers exposed BHB to mouse models of inflammatory diseases caused by NLP3. They focused on how macrophages - the specialized immune cells that produce inflammation. What they found was that the presence of BHB successfully reduced inflammation in the mouse models. The same could be said for those mice put on a ketogenic diet, which increases the levels of BHB n the bloodstream.

"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," Dixit concluded.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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