Jul 8th · Objectives Intermittent fasting boosts some host defence mechanisms while modulating the inflammatory response. Lower-frequency fasting is associated with greater survival and lower risk from COVID-19-related comorbidities. This study evaluated associations of periodic fasting with COVID-19 severity and, secondarily, initial infection by SARS-CoV-2.
Design Prospective longitudinal observational cohort study.
Setting Single-centre secondary care facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA with follow-up across a 24-hospital integrated healthcare system.
Participants Patients enrolled in the INSPIRE registry in 2013–2020 were studied for the primary outcome if they tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 during March 2020 to February 2021 (n=205) or, for the secondary outcome, if they had any SARS-CoV-2 test result (n=1524).
Interventions No treatment assignments were made; individuals reported their personal history of routine periodic fasting across their life span.
Main outcome measures A composite of mortality or hospitalisation was the primary outcome and evaluated by Cox regression through February 2021 with multivariable analyses considering 36 covariables. The secondary outcome was whether a patient tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
Results Subjects engaging in periodic fasting (n=73, 35.6%) did so for 40.4±20.6 years (max: 81.9 years) prior to COVID-19 diagnosis. The composite outcome occurred in 11.0% of periodic fasters and 28.8% of non-fasters (p=0.013), with HR=0.61 (95% CI 0.42 to 0.90) favouring fasting. Multivariable analyses confirmed this association. Other predictors of hospitalisation/mortality were age, Hispanic ethnicity, prior MI, prior TIA and renal failure, with trends for race, smoking, hyperlipidaemia, coronary disease, diabetes, heart failure and anxiety, but not alcohol use. In secondary analysis, COVID-19 was diagnosed in 14.3% of fasters and 13.0% of non-fasters (p=0.51).
Conclusions Routine periodic fasting was associated with a lower risk of hospitalisation or mortality in patients with COVID-19. Fasting may be a complementary therapy to vaccination that could provide immune support and hyperinflammation control during and beyond the pandemic.
Trial registration Clinicaltrials.gov, [NCT02450006] (the INSPIRE registry).
Data are available upon reasonable request. The data underlying this article cannot be shared publicly due to US privacy laws. Data are available upon reasonable request to the corresponding author.
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