California (USA): Scientists at the University of Southern California have found that fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system in humans.
The scientists said that the discovery could be particularly beneficial for people suffering from damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients on chemotherapy.
It could also help the elderly whose immune system becomes less effective as they age, making it harder for them to fight off even common diseases, daily The Telegraph reported.
Traditionally nutritionists have criticized the fasting diets for being unhealthy, however, researchers said, starving kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells. White blood cells fight off infection, the report added.
“It gives the `OK’ for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system,” said Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California. The researchers said fasting “flips a regenerative switch” which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune 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. “Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or ageing, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system,” Prof Longo said.
During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells. “We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system,” added Prof Longo.
“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,” Dr Longo said. Dr Longo added, “There is no evidence at all that fasting would be dangerous while there is strong evidence that it is beneficial.”