Remember your mom telling you to eat your breakfast because it's the most important meal of the day?
Well, mom may have been right. A recent study indicates that skipping breakfast
may be detrimental to your immune system. Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai used mouse models to study the effect fasting has on the immune system.
Results of the study were published in the journal Immunity. Researchers focused on breakfast and analyzed two groups of mice. One group was given breakfast upon awakening and the other group didn't receive breakfast. Blood samples were taken from both groups upon awakening (as a baseline) and then again at four hours later and eight hours later. The fasting mice continued to fast for up to 24 hours at which point food was reintroduced.
Upon examining the blood work, researchers saw a stark difference between the group with no breakfast and the group that had breakfast. All mice had the same amount of monocytes (white blood cells that are made in the bone marrow and are critical for fighting infection) at the baseline blood draw. However, after four hours, the fasting group had 90% fewer monocytes and that number dropped even more after eight hours. The mice in the group that had breakfast had their monocytes unaffected.
Researchers discovered that fasting triggers a stress response in the brain, which causes a large-scale migration of monocytes from the blood to the bone marrow and then shortly after food is reintroduced, the monocytes go back to the bloodstream. The study shows that fasting regulates the pool of monocytes in ways that aren't necessarily favorable for the body to be able to respond to things like an infection.