Long-term intermittent fasting may not only help you in weight loss but also help fight heart-related complications caused by Covid, even in patients who have both Covid and heart problems already, finds a study.

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It means that you don’t eat for a period of time each day or week.

The diet pattern, especially when done over the course of decades, is known to have positive effects on metabolic and cardiovascular health.

In the study, researchers at Intermountain Health in the US examined 464 patients who were undergoing cardiac catheterization from February 2013 to March 2020 and were diagnosed with Covid between 2020 and 2022.

The results showed that those who practiced regular fasting had a lower rate of heart failure-related hospitalization, complications, and death than Covid-19-positive patients in the study who did not fast.

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“We already know that regular fasting over long periods of time can lead to overall health improvements. Here we found that it may also lead to better outcomes in Covid-19 patients who required a cardiac catheterization,” said Benjamin Horne, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at Intermountain Health, US.

“Fasting won’t necessarily stop a cardiac event from happening, but it may prevent someone from developing heart failure after.”

The researchers said that it could be because fasting reduces inflammation, especially since hyperinflammation is associated with poor Covid-19 outcomes.

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In addition, after 12 to 14 hours of fasting, the body switches from using glucose in the blood to ketones, which can improve heart function, Dr. Horne said.

The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology / World Heart Federation national conference in New Orleans.

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 said.

However, he stressed that anyone who wants to consider starting a new fasting practice should consult their doctors first, especially if they are elderly, pregnant, or have conditions like diabetes, or heart or kidney disease.