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Strengthening immunity with short-term fasting

Aug 4, 2023

Dietary restriction enhances T cell immunity, balancing homeostasis and reducing inflammation. While long-term fasting weakens T cell response due to increased autophagy and apoptosis, short-term restriction boosts T cell function.

July 2023 – Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences


Key takeaways


  • Short-term dietary restriction for enhanced immunity: Implementing short-term dietary restriction has been shown to optimise T cell immunity, leading to a more robust and effective immune response. This practice could play a significant role in promoting longevity, as a stronger immune system is crucial for fighting off diseases and infections, which becomes increasingly important as we age
  • The downside of long-term fasting: While short-term dietary restriction has its benefits, long-term fasting may have the opposite effect on the immune system. Extended periods of fasting can lead to increased autophagy, apoptosis, and inflammation in T cells, potentially weakening the body’s defense mechanisms and negatively impacting longevity
  • Metabolic reprogramming of immune cells: Dietary restriction induces a metabolic shift in immune cells, leading to changes in their function and efficiency. This reprogramming helps in creating a more resilient immune system, capable of effectively combating infections and diseases, which is particularly beneficial as the body ages and the immune system naturally weakens
  • Balancing the body through dietary restriction: Dietary restriction helps in maintaining homeostasis and reducing inflammation, which are vital for optimal T cell activation and function. By keeping the body in balance and ensuring that the immune cells are working efficiently, dietary restriction can contribute to healthier ageing and potentially extend lifespan


The practice of using dietary restriction to boost immune function is not a new concept; it is an ancient survival mechanism that has been conserved throughout vertebrate evolution. This highlights the potential universal applicability and relevance of this strategy in promoting longevity and healthy ageing across different species, including humans.


Read the article at: Li, K., Wei, X., Li, K. et al. Dietary restriction to optimize T cell immunity is an ancient survival strategy conserved in vertebrate evolution. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 80, 219 (2023).