Fasting and the Immune System
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Thursday, June 19, 2014 06:12 AM

Fasting for three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as “remarkable.”

Although fasting diets have been criticized by nutritionists, research suggests that starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing more white blood cells, which fight off infection.  The researchers say fasting “flips a regenerative switch” that prompts stem cells to create white blood cells, essentially restoring the immune system.  “It gives the OK for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system.”  Prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose and fat but also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells. During each cycle of fasting, this depletion induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of immune system cells.

In trials, volunteers were asked to fast regularly for between two and four days over a six-month period. Scientists found that prolonged fasting also reduced the enzyme PKA, which is linked to aging and a hormone which increases cancer risk and tumour growth.

“When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged.

“What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back.”

Fasting for 72 hours also protected cancer patients against the toxic impact of chemotherapy.  “The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy”

“There is no evidence at all that fasting would be dangerous while there is strong evidence that it is beneficial.”

 

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