New Intermountain Healthcare Study Finds That Low-Frequency Intermittent Fasting Prompts Anti-Inflammatory Response

Intermittent fasting may not only be a hot dieting trend, but it also has broader health benefits, including helping to fight inflammation, according to a new study from researchers at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute in Salt Lake City. 

Previous research has shown that intermittent fasting, an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating, may improve health markers not related to weight. Now, the new Intermountain research shows that intermittent fasting raises the levels of galectin-3, a protein tied to inflammatory response.

“Inflammation is associated with higher risk of developing multiple chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. We’re encouraged to see evidence that intermountain fasting is prompting the body to fight inflammation and lowering those risks,” said Benjamin Horne, PhD, principal investigator of the study and director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute. 

Findings of the study were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021, which are being held virtually this year. 

These results are part of Intermountain’s WONDERFUL Trial studying intermittent fasting, which found that intermittent fasting causes declines in the metabolic syndrome score (MSS) and insulin resistance.  

This specific study examined 67 patients aged 21 to 70 who all had at least one metabolic syndrome feature or type 2 diabetes. Participants also weren’t taking anti-diabetic or statin medication and had elevated LDL cholesterol levels. 

Of the 67 patients studied, 36 were prescribed an intermittent fasting schedule: twice a week water-only 24-hour fasting for four weeks, then once a week water-only 24 hour-fasting for 22 weeks. Fasts could not be done on consecutive days. The remaining 31 participants made no changes to their diet or lifestyle.

After 26 weeks, researchers then measured participants’ galectin-3, and found that it was higher in the intermittent fasting group. They also found lower rates of HOMA-IR (insulin resistance) and MSS (metabolic syndrome), which researchers believe may be similar to the reported effects of SGLT-2 inhibitors, a class of drugs used to lower high glucose levels in type 2 diabetes patients.

They also found that, like with patients in the previous the WONDERFUL clinical trial, MSS and HOMA-IR scores dropped in this intermittent fasting group, as well.

“In finding higher levels of galectin-3 in patients who fasted, these results provide an interesting mechanism potentially involved in helping reduce the risk of heart failure and diabetes,” said Dr. Horne, who added that everyone the trial team completed the same regime to make sure that it was doable and not overly taxing to participants. 

“Unlike some of IF diet plans that are incredibly restrictive and promise magic weight loss, this isn’t a drastic form of fasting. The best routine is one that patients can stick to over the long term, and this study shows that even occasionally fasting can have positive health effects,” he added.


About Intermountain Healthcare
Located in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada, Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, the Intermountain Medical Group with some 2,700 employed physicians and advanced care practitioners, a health plans division called SelectHealth, Homecare, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For updates, see


Intermittent fasting may not only be a hot dieting trend, but it also has broader health benefits