For a long time, there was controversy surrounding the potential benefits or hazards of fasting. On one hand, those that support fasting point to the many benefits that they can claim it actually provides. This actually includes promoting weight loss, normalizing insulin sensitivity, as well as lowering the levels of triglycerides in the body, and slowing the signs of aging.
There are a lot of different fasting plans which range from intermittent fasting lasting, which are on average 14 to 18 hours to some longer-term plans which are abstaining from solid foods for 2 to 3 days. Each of them is said to carry their own benefits and challenges too, offering options for every person.
A lot of nutritionists and medical professionals argue that fasting is nothing more than an unsupported trend, and it carries with it a lot of health risks which should be considered. They also point to the loss of nutrients during the time spent fasting, as it limits not just the intake of unhealthy foods but also those which our bodies require, such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Moreover, they argue that fasting usually leads to rebound eating, which actually results in an overall weight gain, opposite to the sought-after weight loss.
One new research by the University of Southern California presents a fascinating discovery, again taking the debate to the forefront. The team collected a group of participants and asked them to fast for 2-4 days on a regular basis, in the initial stages, over a 6-month period.
At this time, they were witnesses of some incredible changes. The participants saw a noticeable decrease in the production of the enzyme PKA, which is the hormone that was connected with an increased risk of cancer and tumor growth. Moreover, the immunity of the participants appeared to get a complete overhaul.
One professor, named Valter Longo, Ph.D., the researcher of the study, has expressed his surprise with the findings of the study, stating the following:
What we started noticing in both works the human and the animal, is that the white blood cells count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then, when you are re-feed, the blood cells come back. So, we started thinking well, where does it come from?
The findings may also provide some considerable promise for those that are susceptible to disease, now receiving chemotherapy treatments or simply for the aging population. The research has shown that the act of fasting actually triggered a switch to flip in the body, which signals it to start a stem-cell based regeneration of the hematopoietic system.
It also forced the body to use up the stores of glucose, fat, and ketones which it has, and also started to break down a large number of white blood cells. The loss of the white blood cells flagged the body to regenerate new immune system cells.
Professor Longo also explained:
When you starve, the immunity tries to save energy, and one of the things that it can do in order to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells which are not needed, especially those that may be damaged.
This actually means that according to the findings of the study, the process of fasting for a 72-hour period which is followed by re-feeding with a healthy, as well as nutritionally focused diet, can provide those that are struggling with a new immunity.
While the possible benefits are for sure worth some further review, medical professionals warn that further study is also required before it is going to be seen as a definitive medical option. The co-author of the study, named Tanya Dorff, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital gave the following advice:
While chemotherapy saves lives, it actually causes important collateral damage to the immunity. The results of this study suggested that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects that chemotherapy has. More clinical studies are also needed, and any such dietary intervention has to undertake just under the guidance of a physician.