Home Medizin Studie enthüllt die molekulare Reaktion des Körpers auf längeres Fasten

Studie enthüllt die molekulare Reaktion des Körpers auf längeres Fasten

von NFI Redaktion

Recent findings show that the body undergoes significant systematic changes in multiple organs during prolonged fasting periods. The results provide evidence of health benefits beyond weight loss but also indicate that potentially health-altering changes only occur after three days without food.

The study published today in Nature Metabolism improves our understanding of what happens in the body after an extended period without food.

By identifying the potential health benefits of fasting and the underlying molecular basis, researchers from the Precision Healthcare University Research Institute (PHURI) at Queen Mary University of London and the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences provide a roadmap for future research that could lead to therapeutic interventions – especially for individuals who may benefit from fasting but cannot undergo prolonged fasting or fasting-like diets such as ketogenic diets.

Throughout the centuries, humans have developed the ability to survive for extended periods without food. Millions of people around the world practice fasting for various medical and cultural reasons, including health benefits and weight reduction. Since ancient times, it has been used to treat conditions such as epilepsy and rheumatoid arthritis.

During fasting, the body changes its energy source and type by switching from consumed calories to utilizing its own fat stores. Aside from this change in energy sources, little is known about how the body responds to extended periods without food and what health effects – whether positive or negative – this may have. New techniques allowing researchers to measure thousands of proteins circulating in our blood provide the opportunity to systematically and in detail examine molecular adaptations to fasting in humans.

Researchers tracked 12 healthy volunteers who participated in a seven-day water-only fast. The volunteers were closely monitored daily to record changes in the levels of around 3,000 proteins in their blood before, during, and after fasting. By identifying which proteins are involved in the body’s response, researchers could subsequently predict potential health consequences of prolonged fasting by integrating genetic information from large-scale studies.

As expected, the researchers observed that within the first two to three days of fasting, the body shifted its energy sources – from glucose to body fat stores. The volunteers lost an average of 5.7 kg in both fat mass and muscle mass. After three days of eating post-fasting, the weight remained low – the loss of muscle mass was almost completely reversed, but the fat mass remained.

For the first time, researchers observed that after about three days of fasting, the body underwent significant changes in protein levels – indicating a whole-body reaction to complete calorie restriction. Overall, every third of the measured proteins changed significantly during fasting in all major organs. These changes were consistent among all volunteers, but there were characteristic features of fasting beyond weight loss, such as changes in proteins that form the supportive structure for neurons in the brain.

For the first time, we can see what happens on a molecular level throughout the body when we fast. Fasting, when safely done, is an effective measure for weight loss. Popular diets involving fasting – such as intermittent fasting – claim to have health benefits beyond weight loss. Our results provide evidence for the health benefits of fasting that go beyond weight loss; however, these were only visible after three days of complete calorie restriction – later than we previously thought.“

Claudia Langenberg, Director of Queen Mary’s Precision Health University Research Institute (PHURI)

Maik Pietzner, Health Data Chair of PHURI and Co-Leader of the Computational Medicine Group at the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité, said:

„Our findings have provided a foundation for centuries-old knowledge of why fasting is used in certain diseases. While fasting can be helpful in treating some conditions, fasting is often not an option for patients with a disease. We hope that these insights can shed light on why fasting is beneficial in certain cases and that treatment methods can be developed for patients to use.“


Queen Mary University of London

Journal Reference:

Pietzner, M., et al. (2024). Systemic proteomic adaptations to 7 days of complete calorie restriction in humans. Nature Metabolism. doi.org/10.1038/s42255-024-01008-9.

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