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Intermittent fasting may promote less severe COVID-19 symptoms, study finds

Consumers who regularly fasted were less likely to be hospitalized or die after being infected

Intermittent fasting concept with salad and clock
Photo (c) clubfoto - Getty Images
The threat of COVID-19 is still very real for consumers around the world, but findings from a recent study suggest that your diet could lower your chances of developing severe symptoms. 

Researchers from Intermountain Healthcare say people who have practiced intermittent fasting for longer periods of time tend to experience less severe health complications when they're infected with the coronavirus. 

"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," said Dr. Benjamin Horne, the director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at Intermountain Healthcare.

Combatting inflammation from COVID-19

The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing COVID-19 outcomes in over 200 patients who tested positive for the virus between March 2020, and February 2021.

The team found that participants who regularly fasted at least once per month had a lower rate of hospitalization and death due to the coronavirus. The researchers noted that intermittent fasting wasn't associated with a lower chance of testing positive for COVID-19; it was only connected to outcomes after participants were infected. 

Horne explained that hyperinflammation is a common symptom that's associated with COVID-19. He suggests that intermittent fasting may counteract this because it tends to reduce inflammation in the body. He also says fasting changes how the body uses certain molecules like linoleic acid.

"There's a pocket on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 that linoleic acid fits into -- and can make the virus less able to attach to other cells," he explained.

Shouldn't be used in place of a vaccine

While intermittent fasting could help consumers avoid serious complications from a coronavirus infection, the researchers stated that the eating plan shouldn't be used as a substitute for a COVID-19 vaccination.

"It should be further evaluated for potential short and long-term preventative or therapeutic use as a complementary approach to vaccines and anti-viral therapies for reducing COVID-19 severity," Horne said.

The full study has been published in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health.

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