Fasting Boosts Immunity

by sho, June 5, 2017

Ancient fasting technique regenerates immune system

Researchers were surprised to find that in both mice and humans fasting regenerates damaged and old immune systems.

The study, by researchers from University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, is the first study of it’s kind, showing a natural intervention can regenerate an organ or a system.

The findings indicate that fasting not only protects against toxic effects of chemotherapy, but also triggers stem cell regeneration of new immune cells and a clearing out of old, damaged cells.

The team believes the findings could benefit people with immune system damage, for example if they have received chemotherapy treatment for cancer. It could also benefit the elderly whose immune systems are weakened through aging, making them more susceptible to disease.

“We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system,” says Valter Longo, a professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, and director of the USC Longevity Institute, and adds, “We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system.”
More Science behind Ancient Method of Fasting

During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells. In particular, prolonged fasting reduced the enzyme PKA, an effect previously discovered by the Longo team to extend longevity in simple organisms and which has been linked in other research to the regulation of stem cell self-renewal and pluripotency — that is, the potential for one cell to develop into many different cell types. Prolonged fasting also lowered levels of IGF-1, a growth-factor hormone that Longo and others have linked to aging, tumor progression and cancer risk.

Results from experiments on mice and humans (phase 1 receiving chemotherapy) showed that long periods of fasting significantly lowered levels of white blood cells and that fasting appears to shift stem cells of the immune system from a dormant state to an active state of self-renewal.

Researcher Longo says, “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.” Longo addes “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”.

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