How fasting lessens inflammation

When mice with inflammatory diseases are put on low-carb diets or forced to fast, their symptoms start to disappear. Now, scientists know why.

A team of scientists was studying the compound beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), which the body produces during starvation, dieting, or intense exercise. It’s been known that the brain uses BHB for energy when blood sugar is low, but the team found something else: BHB blocks the protein NLRP3, which is part of a complex called the inflammasome and has been implicated in inflammatory diseases.

When mice were given BHB, the team reported in Nature Medicine in February, NLRP3 stopped activating their inflammasomes. Moreover, healthy mice with high blood levels of BHB did not develop disease when researchers mutated their NLRP3 gene.

Designing drugs that elevate BHB could help treat inflammation-related diseases in humans, says Vishwa Deep Dixit, DVM, Ph.D., professor of comparative medicine and immunobiology and senior author of the study.


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