How intermittent fasting works: Autophagy, inflammasome and cell aging

by | May 2024 | Nutrition

A recent study investigated the effects of intermittent fasting on various biomarkers in young men who fasted during Ramadan. The aim of the study was to investigate the molecular changes during prolonged interval fasting and to evaluate their potential impact on health and longevity markers.

The study involved 25 healthy young men who intended to fast for the entire month of Ramadan. The researchers measured the expression of genes before, during and after the fasting period in order to assess any changes that occurred.

The results showed that intermittent fasting caused changes in genes associated with autophagy, the inflammasome and senescence. Autophagy is a cellular process that degrades and recycles cellular components, which is associated with an extended lifespan. The researchers observed an increase in the expression of ULK1, a gene involved in autophagy, two weeks and one month after the start of the fasting period. Another gene involved in the induction of autophagy, ATG5, showed a similar pattern.

The inflammasome, a complex molecule that plays a role in the immune response, was also influenced by intermittent fasting. The researchers found that the expression of NLRP3 and IL-1β, two genes involved in the inflammasome, increased two weeks and one month after the start of fasting. In contrast, ASC, a marker for the inflammasome complex, showed a reduction in expression during the same time period.

Senescence, a state of cellular ageing, was also investigated in the study. The researchers observed a tendency for p16INK4a, a senescence mediator, to rise after the start of fasting and then fall again. P21, another marker for senescence, showed a reduction in expression during and after the fasting period.

The study has some limitations, including missing data on dietary intake, physical activity and sleep habits, which could influence the observed changes in gene expression. In addition, the study was only carried out on young men, which limits the general validity of the results for other population groups. Further research is therefore needed to confirm or refute these results and to investigate the actual protein level rather than gene expression.


In summary, however, the study provides valuable insights into the molecular effects of interval fasting on various biomarkers in young men. Although additional research is needed to fully understand the complex relationship between autophagy, inflammasome and cellular aging, the results suggest that intermittent fasting may help delay the onset of age-associated diseases and promote overall health and longevity, thus maximizing healthspan.