SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A new study is bringing some good news to those who practice intermittent fasting

According to the study conducted by Intermountain Healthcare, intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce the severity of complications due to COVID-19.

In the study posted in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, Intermountain researchers found that COVID-19 patients who practiced regular water-only intermittent fasting had a lower risk of hospitalization or dying due to the virus than patients who did not fast.

“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 Benjamin Horne, PhD, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at Intermountain Healthcare.

The study involved 205 patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 between March 2020 and February 2021, before COVID vaccines became widely available.

Researchers then noticed something interesting.

The patients who fasted regularly had a lower rate of hospitalization and death due to the virus in comparison to those who did not fast.

Of those 205 patients, 73 of them fasted regularly for at least once a month. These patients reportedly did so for a period of over 40 years. This is because many of the study’s participants belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members typically fast on the first Sunday of the month.

This made Utah an ideal place to conduct this study, as 62% of Utahns are members of the church, researchers say.

“Intermittent fasting was not associated with whether or not someone tested positive for COVID-19, but it was associated with lower severity once patients had tested positive for it,” Dr. Horne said.

But why would fasting have any effects on the severity of COVID-19?

Researchers say it’s just due to the overall health benefits of intermittent fasting, which reduces inflammation, especially since hyperinflammation is associated with poor COVID-19 outcomes.

Another potential benefit is that intermittent fasting promotes autophagy, which is “the body’s recycling system that helps your body destroy and recycle damaged and infected cells,” Dr. Horne added.

Intermountain officials stressed that these results were only seen in those who practiced intermittent fasting for decades, adding that these findings should not suggest fasting is a substitute for being vaccinated against COVID-19.