Many have been raving about the benefits of intermittent fasting, and only a few are talking about its downsides. The popularity of this dieting technique on social media has made it somehow impossible for discussions on its disadvantages to happen.

However, there is growing evidence that intermittent fasting is not as healthy as previously thought. A recently published study adds credibility to the claims that the diet affects the body negatively in the long term.

According to the study published in the journal Immunity, the diet can damage the body’s immune response by causing certain white blood cells to go dormant. The study was conducted by researchers and medical professionals in cardiovascular health at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Using mice models, the scientists identified a fasting-induced switch in leukocyte migration that affected monocyte lifespan and altered disease susceptibility. The shifts made the mice vulnerable to infection.

The researchers conducted the study because they wanted to have an in-depth comprehension of the long-term effects of chronic fasting. They sought to find whether 4 hours or 24 hours of fasting could impact the immune system.

To do this, they divided the mice into two groups. One ate breakfast immediately after waking up, while the other did not eat anything for specific periods. Blood samples were taken at different intervals and examined.

The team noticed a significant difference in the white blood cells present in both groups. The fasting group had less because the monocytes from the blood returned to the bone marrow. When in the blood, monocytes help fight infections and diseases.

What the scientists found was quite disturbing. About 90% of monocytes disappeared from the bloodstreams of the mice. The number increased in extended periods of fasting. The monocytes hibernated and only came out when food was reintroduced after 24 hours.

Once the fasting group had eaten, the cells returned to the bloodstream after being dormant. However, they were no longer the same. They had become inflamed and were no longer efficient in protecting against infection.

“There is a growing awareness that fasting is healthy, and there is indeed abundant evidence for the benefits of fasting. Our study provides a word of caution as it suggests that there may also be a cost of fasting that carries a health risk,” lead author Filip Swirski, said, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post.

“The study shows that there is a conversation between the nervous and immune systems. Because these cells are so important to other diseases like heart disease or cancer, understanding how their function is controlled is critical,” the director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai added.

Earlier this month, another study published in the journal Appetite by Texas A&M University reported a surprising link connecting intermittent fasting to binge eating and other food disorders. The findings added credence to the growing evidence against intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting has been linked to increased resistance to stress, improved blood sugar levels and better blood pressure and resting heart rates. However, the dieters are encouraged to stay hydrated. Pixabay