The impact of dawn to sunset fasting on immune system and its clinical significance in COVID-19 pandemic

Metabol Open. 2022 Mar;13:100162. doi: 10.1016/j.metop.2021.100162. Epub 2021 Dec 28.


Dawn to sunset fasting, a type of intermittent fasting commonly practiced in the month of Ramadan, requires abstinence from food and drink from dawn to sunset. Dawn and dusk are two transition time zones of the day that play a critical role in the human circadian rhythm. Practicing dawn to sunset fasting requires the alignment of mealtimes and wake-sleep times with the human biological dawn and dusk. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) impairs immune cell responses at multiple levels and leads to severe Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). It generates high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, also known as a cytokine storm, leads to mitochondrial dysfunction and generation of excessive amounts of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species, downregulates autophagy to escape detection for unchecked replication, and alters gut microbiome composition. Severe cases of COVID-19 have been associated with several comorbidities that impair immune responses (e.g., obesity, diabetes, malignancy) and blood laboratory abnormalities (e.g., elevated procalcitonin, C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, leukocytosis, lymphopenia). Several studies of dawn to sunset fasting showed anti-inflammatory effect by suppressing several pro-inflammatory cytokines, reducing oxidative stress, inducing a proteome response associated with increased autophagy, remodeling the gut microbiome, and improving the components of metabolic syndrome (e.g., obesity, blood glucose levels, blood pressure, lipids). In conclusion, dawn to sunset fasting has the potential to optimize the immune system function against SARS-CoV-2 during the COVID-19 pandemic as it suppresses chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, improves metabolic profile, and remodels the gut microbiome. This review presents scientific literature related to the effects of dawn to sunset fasting on the immune system. Studies are needed to assess and confirm the potential benefits of dawn to sunset fasting against SARS-CoV-2.

Keywords: Autophagy; COVID-19; Coronavirus; Dawn to sunset fasting; Diurnal fasting; Fasting; Immune system; Inflammation; Intermittent fasting; Oxidative stress; Ramadan fasting; Ramadan-associated intermittent fasting; SARS‐CoV‐2.