Intermittent fasting, a possible priming tool for host defense against SARS-CoV-2 infection: Crosstalk among calorie restriction, autophagy and immune response

Written By Claire C

In this article, researchers discuss the possible connections between the pathways associated with intermittent fasting, autophagy, and SARS-CoV-2 infection.  

Published in July 2020 in the journal Immunological Letters. The full article is freely-available online here:

By Abdul Hannan, Ataur Rahman, Saidur Rahman, Abdullah Al Mamun Sohag, Raju Dash, Khandkar Shaharina Hossain, Mithila Farjana, and Jamal Uddin

Background Information:

  • Vulnerability to COVID-19 is enhanced by pre-existing conditions and compromised immune systems 
  • Deregulated immune responses result in immunopathology (immune response caused by a disease)
  • Autophagy is a cellular response system that plays a key role in the regulation of innate and adaptive immunity
    • Innate immunity: nonspecific defense system you’re born with, protects your body against all antigens
    • Adaptive immunity: acquired and developed immunity conferred by antibodies and specialized cells. Induced by by exposure to pathogens.
  • Fasting is connected to an increase in immune system function and activation of autophagy 

SARS-CoV-2 Immune Response:

  • COVID-19 infection triggers a local immune response that causes macrophages and monocytes (white blood cells central to the immune system) to respond to the infection
  • In the majority of cases, the immune response quickly subsides, and patients are able to recover
  • But, in severe cases, a dysfunctional immune response leads to an immunopathological condition called a “cytokine storm”
    • Occurs when the immune system floods your bloodstream with inflammatory proteins known as cytokines
    • Consequences of a cytokine storm: fluid buildup in the lungs, respiratory distress and dysfunction, multi-organ failure.

Autophagy and Your Immune System:

  • Autophagy is a specialized process that occurs inside cells to help balance and regulate cellular activities and components to ensure proper functioning
  • Breakdown and recycling of dysfunctional, lethal, and mutant biomolecules, organelles, and pathogens
  • Associated with cell survival, cell death, aging, and immunity
  • Involved in the activation of the immune system in response to pathogens or infection.
  • Within the innate immune system, autophagy functions to regulate activation, cell survival, cell division, and immune cell renewal.
  • Encourages the release of antibodies and regulates the release of cytokines

Fasting and Autophagy:

  • Autophagy triggered by periods of stress and starvation 
  • mTOR is a cellular component that integrates information about nutrient levels, cellular environment, messages from other cells, and energy levels.
  • During periods of fasting, mTOR acts as a positive regulator of autophagy 
  • Fasting-induced autophagy can help by
    • Priming host immune system
    • Improving cellular resistance to stress

Fasting and Immune Responses:

  • Intermittent fasting helps reduce inflammation, which can help which disease conditions that rely on inflammatory responses
    • Obesity
    • Asthma
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Upregulation of 
    • Metabolism
    • DNA repair
    • Immune system
  • Reduction in fat mass, which can be achieved through intermittent fasting, is correlated with a decrease in cytokines


  • Without a perfect therapeutic treatment for COVID-19, it is important that we focus on preventative measures to prime our immune systems 
  • Intermittent fasting can directly (by activating an immune response) or indirectly (by inducing autophagy) stimulate the body’s immune system and prime host defense systems to handle stress

Important Notes:

  • This research is still extremely new, and we still need more information about it!
  • The majority of the article discusses how the known pathways associated with autophagy, intermittent fasting, and SARS-CoV-2 might interact, but there has been no experimental research done to examine this relationship

Other Fasting Flamingo Autophagy Resources: 

Want to learn more?

Do you have content that fits with this blog and would like to share it?

All Topics

fasting flamingo

Read more content like this

Fasting Safely – Here’s what to know

Fasting Safely – Here’s what to know

In this article, Dr. Jason Fung discusses some of the most important things to keep in mind in order to fast in the safest way possible. He discusses some of the most common dangers associated with improper fasting and gives advice on how to prevent these. Most importantly, he discusses the importance of fasting with knowledge and experience and the power of easing into fasting. If you ever feel concerned about your own fasting practices, remember we’re here to help and provide you with advice and resources to make sure you have a positive experience with fasting!

read more
Eat, Fast, Feast

Eat, Fast, Feast

Eat, Fast, Feast – Heal Your Body While Feeding Your Soul – A Christian Guide to Fasting :: Why did most Christians stop fasting? And, is this ancient practice something your should consider adopting to strengthen your connection to God?

read more
The Joy of Fasting – Rumi Poem

The Joy of Fasting – Rumi Poem

There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less.
If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you
 run up the steps in front of you.

read more
My favorite Intermittent Fasting Books – The 37 Best & Most Useful

My favorite Intermittent Fasting Books – The 37 Best & Most Useful

In the early 1900s there were a number of book published on fasting, but then there were very few new books on fasting or intermittent fasting until 2002 when Ori Hofmekler came out with The Warrior Diet. Then and starting in 2016 Intermittent Fasting books started popping up everywhere…

read more

Share this post with a friend

fasting flamingo

Leave a message


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.