Often associated with quick weight loss results, intermittent fasting could be the next big thing in the medical community’s search for the best means to contain the COVID-19 situation.

A new study found that a pattern of regular fasting could come in handy when battling a SARS-CoV-2 infection after researchers found its positive effect on lowering the risk for severe COVID-19 complications.

For the study published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health early this month, researchers sought to evaluate the associations of periodic fasting with COVID-19 severity since fasting has been found to boost some host defense mechanisms in response to an infection.

The researchers used data from patients enrolled in Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare’s INSPIRE program, a voluntary health registry. The patients enrolled in the registry from 2013 to 2020 were tested for COVID-19 from March 2020 to February 2021. Among them, 205 tested positive, and only 73 said they practiced regular fasting.

The team found that the patients who admitted practicing periodic fasting had been doing it for an average of 40 years. One patient even reported fasting for more than 81 years.

According to Dr. Benjamin Horne, the director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at Intermountain Healthcare and lead researcher, many participants who practiced fasting were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Around 40-45% of the participants who attended the church reported fasting regularly.

“Intermittent fasting has already shown to lower inflammation and improve cardiovascular health. In this study, we're finding additional benefits when it comes to battling an infection of COVID-19 in patients who have been fasting for decades,” Horne added.

Various studies have already established the ability of intermittent fasting to lower cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and diabetes, on top of reducing weight.

After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that routine fasting lowered the risk of hospitalization or mortality in COVID-19 patients. They even noted that the diet could work well with vaccinations in providing strengthened immunity amid the pandemic.

“It's not feasible to vaccinate the entire world every six months with a COVID-19 vaccine. And so having a routine fasting regimen, that's something that's sustainable over a long period of time, is something that can potentially help people to fill in the gaps between the vaccination boosters so that you have some additional immunity to be able to protect yourself from the COVID-19 severity,” Horne said.