Everybody knows the human immune system will respond enthusiastically to exercise and healthy eating. But is there a way to get those benefits, which include enhancing our bodies' abilities to suppress certain kinds of inflammation, without, y'know, sweating or starving?

Maybe. Hopefully. New Scientist reports:

Exercising hard or not eating for a while can alter the immune system's behavior, suppressing some types of inflammatory response. That, in turn, seems to protect against Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and autoimmune conditions. But what triggers the change in the immune response has not been clear.

When starved of glucose, its usual energy source, the body can make an alternative in the shape of chemicals called ketones. To find out if one of these suppresses inflammation, Vishwa Deep Dixit from the Yale School of Medicine doused human immune cells with various ketones. When he upped the dose of a ketone called BHB to the level you'd expect after two days of fasting, the inflammatory response fell away.

Other ketones produced during fasting had no effect, suggesting that BHB is responsible for lowering inflammation.

What's more, BHB seemed to have a very specific effect, only dampening certain undesirable inflammatory reactions, leaving other useful ones alone.

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While it's HIGHLY HIGHLY UNLIKELY that you'll be able to chemically obtain the health benefits of dieting and working out anytime soon, Dixit believes his research is nudging us in that direction. You're still gonna have to exercise, though, until science finds a way to give you a six-pack without having to do a single sit-up.

Read the full scientific paper in Nature Medicine.

[Via New Scientist]

[Image via Shutterstock]

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