A recent study reported by the University of Southern California and published in Cell Stem Cell has found the first evidence that fasting may be able to trigger “stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system.”
Fasting for periods of two to four days at a time over the course of six months was shown to lower white blood cell counts in both mice and humans.
In the mice, scientists found evidence that fasting may be even more beneficial. The mice also “flipped a regenerative switch.” The mice who fasted saw “stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system.”
The “hematopoietic system” is that which is responsible for the generation of blood and for the immune system.
In other words, they have found that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage by lowering the white count, but may also kickstart immune system regeneration.
According to the study, this could have major implications for the treatment of autoimmune disorders and for patients who must undergo chemotherapy or other treatments that weaken the immune system. The discovery could also significantly increase our ability to age well. The decline of the immune system is what causes use to be increasingly susceptible to disease as we grow older.
Although the regeneration evidence was found in mice, the study did perform a test on humans that showed promising results.
The human trial showed that a small group of patients who fasted for a 72-hour period prior to chemotherapy experienced fewer harmful effects from the chemotherapy than patients who did not fast.
According to Science Daily, Dorff, one of the authors of the study says, “While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy. More clinical studies are needed, and any such dietary intervention should be undertaken only under the guidance of a physician.”
Editor’s Note: Further evidence of how diet may affect the immune system.