Combined effects of moderate exercise and short-term fasting on markers of immune function in healthy human subjects

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2020 Jun 1;318(6):R1103-R1115. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00341.2019. Epub 2020 May 13.


This study aimed to investigate the effects of a short-term (36 h) fasting period combined with an acute bout of exercise on markers of immune function and inflammation in healthy human subjects. Fourteen moderately trained male subjects (aged 19-39 yr) participated in a 36-h fasting trial (FA-T), followed by an acute bout of moderate exercise (60% V̇o2max). After 1 wk, the same subjects, as their own control, participated in a nonfasting trial (NFA-T) in which they performed an exercise trial of the same duration and intensity. Blood samples were taken before, immediately after, and 1 h after each exercise bout and analyzed for several immunological and metabolic markers. At baseline, fasting subjects showed lower levels of T cell apoptosis, lymphocyte-proliferative responses, IL-6, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), insulin, and leptin (P < 0.05) as well as higher levels of neutrophil oxidative burst and thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) than those in the NFA-T (P < 0.05). After the exercise protocol, fasted subjects revealed higher T cell apoptosis, neutrophil oxidative burst, TBARS, TNFα, and MCP-1 levels as well as lower levels of lymphocyte-proliferative response, IL-6, insulin, and leptin than those in the NFA-T (P < 0.05). Short-term fasting aggravates perturbations in markers of immune function, and inflammation was induced by an acute moderate-intensity exercise protocol.

Keywords: apoptosis; exercise; fasting; immune function; lymphocyte.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Chemokine CCL2 / blood
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Fasting / blood*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Insulin / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Leptin / blood
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Thiobarbituric Acid Reactive Substances / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Chemokine CCL2
  • Insulin
  • Interleukin-6
  • Leptin
  • Thiobarbituric Acid Reactive Substances
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha