today's Pick
Fasting could regenerate the immune system, study says
Publish Date: Jun 29, 2014
Fasting could regenerate the immune system, study says
  • mail
  • img

It’s often used as a quick weight loss method – but fasting could also help the body to fight off disease.

Refraining from food for as little as two days can regenerate the immune system, helping the body to fight infection, according to a new study.

Scientists at the University of Southern California said the findings could have major implications for the elderly and people suffering from damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients.

Researchers tested the effects of fasting for two to four day periods over the course of six months on both mice and humans.

In both cases, long periods of not eating significantly lowered white blood cell counts.

And in mice, each cycle of fasting then “flipped a regenerative switch” that triggered stem cell-based regeneration of new white blood cells, thereby renewing the body’s defence system.

Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California, said:“It gives the OK for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system.

“And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting.”

He added: “Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system.”

The study also found that fasting reduces levels of the enzyme PKA, an effect which is known to increase longevity in simple organisms, as well as levels of the hormone IGF-1, which has been linked to ageing, tumour progression and cancer risk.

In addition, a small pilot clinical trial found that fasting for a 72-hour period prior to chemotherapy protected patients against toxicity.

“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,” said Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California.

“More clinical studies are needed, and any such dietary intervention should be undertaken only under the guidance of a physician.”

Researchers are now carrying out further studies to investigate the link between diet and stem cell regeneration.

Professor Longo said: “We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system.

“We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system.”


Fasting does not have to be painful

Why fasting is good for you

Muslim women tipped on fasting

How does fasting affect the workplace during Ramadhan?



The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Church finds condom use against AIDS
Pope Francis admitted Monday the question as to whether the Church should allow the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS was a "complicated" one, but he said the world had bigger problems....
ONE member of staff died and 37 people were injured after a security drill at a Nairobi university was mistaken for a real attack, sparking scenes of panic...
An attack by Ugandan rebels in the restive east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has left at least 24 people dead, including a United Nations peacekeeper, the UN said Monday...
HIV drug stocks not reaching African patients: report
Efforts to get lifesaving antiretrovial drugs to HIV-positive patients in many sub-Saharan African countries are routinely failing at "the last mile", an international medical group said Monday....
Cecafa: Uganda through to semifinals
Farouk Miya strikes once again to help Uganda beat Malawi and qualify for the semifinals....
Pope Francis has appointed Rev. Vincent Kirabo as the new Bishop of Hoima Diocese....
Do you think Uganda is winning the fight against AIDS?
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter