Fasting may help repair damaged immune system

Fasting may improve immune system

Periods of not eating for several days might be good for the body, protecting against damage to the immune system. Researchers from the University of Southern California found that prolonged fasting might even trigger immune system regeneration.

“[Prolonged fasting] activates stem cells, which can then generate a variety of immune cells,” said Valter Longo, corresponding study author and director of the USC Longevity Institute.

Extended periods of fasting were found to drastically reduce white blood cell counts in mice, as well as humans in an early trial. According to Longo, the effects can be traced back to energy conservation. During periods of fasting, the body recycles old, damaged immune cells in an effort to save energy. When white blood cells go down, it ignites the regeneration of new immune system cells.

Researchers also found prolonged fasting to cut levels of a growth-factor hormone called IGF-1, which has been associated with tumor growth, cancer and aging.

Longo says that prolonged fasting would be four to five days per month for two to three months (under the supervision of a doctor).

The study is especially relevant for cancer patients, who experience immune system damage from chemotherapy. Fasting may help counteract this, researchers say. The findings are equally exciting for people with immune system disorders.

There is a wealth of previous research supporting the potential health benefits of periodic fasting. Animal studies have linked it to extended lifespans and reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Another study suggested that a low-nutrient diet may have similar effects.

Longo says the next step in the research is to conduct human clinical trials on normal subjects who fast for two to three months.

By Marianne Hayes

Related Nutrition News

May 7, 2015
Walking

Walking for two minutes might improve mortality risk

May 7, 2015
March 2, 2015
Stress test

Treadmill test predicts 10-year mortality risk

March 2, 2015
October 22, 2014
Social media

Junk food brands use social media to market to kids, young adults

October 22, 2014
October 22, 2014
Sugary soda is linked to many health issues.

Sugary soda linked to accelerated cell aging

October 22, 2014
June 13, 2014
Oatmeal has been shown to be more filling than cereal

Oatmeal for breakfast more filling than cereal

June 13, 2014
April 14, 2014
Fish oil supplements, which have lots of omega-3 fatty acids

Study shows not all fish oils created equal

April 14, 2014
April 11, 2014
Junk food can contribute to obesity and diabetes

Can junk food make you lazy?

April 11, 2014
April 4, 2014
Child in cereal aisle picking out a box of cereal

Characters on cereal boxes boost sales

April 4, 2014
March 20, 2014
Friends eating healthy food outside together

Low-nutrient diet may lengthen lifespan, reduce diseases

March 20, 2014
January 28, 2014
Unhealthy diet

How unhealthy diets affect health

January 28, 2014
April 7, 2013
Mediterranean diet

Blood omega-3s found to cut mortality risk

April 7, 2013
April 6, 2013
Doctors performing surgery

Pre-surgery diet could affect recovery

April 6, 2013
March 25, 2013
Vitamin D

Vitamin D may boost immune system

March 25, 2013