Renowned medical journal Cell Stem Cell of June 5 issue indicates that state of fasting activates stem cells and prompts them for self-renewal. These stem cells are directed to replenish the depleted immune cells when someone is on prolonged fasting.
Fasting and health benefits
Laboratory monitoring of cancer patients who fast regularly due to poor appetite indicates a dramatic fall in WBC count. It is thus postulated that prolong fasting stimulates clearing of damaged and unwanted immune cells. The fall in white blood cell count is the result of this process in persons who are on regular fasting, and naturally food intake causes a rise of those cells.
Stem cells, which are parent cells of all types, sense the drop in white blood cell counts and start to convert into new immune cells. This response is due to lowering of aging-related PKA enzyme that is caused by fasts. It has been found in a clinical trial on cancer patients fasted for 72 hours that chemotherapy-related toxicity is relatively less if it is given after fasting. So, it has a clear benefit on chemotherapy-induced side effects according to the study.
Fasting has cultural and religious value in many societies of the world. However, it should not be confused with starvation. It is a willful act of limiting and controlling food intake in a healthy and proper way. The body is also revitalized, and mind becomes fresh after fasting.
Prevention of brain diseases
An interesting finding of National Institute in Baltimore based on a research on Aging is the severity of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases reduces after fasting for 1 to 2 weeks only. Another finding is that limiting daily food intake equivalent to 500 calories for 1 or 2 days is good for brain chemistry.
Keeping away from heart diseases and diabetes risk group
Intermittent fasting is good for the cardiovascular system. It state stimulates the release of growth hormone and catecholamines which increase metabolism. Fat is burnt during this process that is a major culprit for heart disease and diabetes. It is a well established non-pharmacological treatment of hypertension, angina, and diabetes.
Role in cancer treatment
As stated earlier, a study indicated that chemotherapy-related side-effects are significantly reduced if the patient can be kept on fasting before such therapy. Fasting reduces the supply of nutrients to the cancer cells and thus tumor growth and spread are slowed down which in turn ensures the longer survival of the patient. National Institute of Aging found out during a study on breast cancer that fasting inhibits cancer cells to release new proteins that are necessary for division of these cells. Free radicals also generated during protein metabolism are toxic to cancer cells.
Although its many benefits are well-established, more research is needed to come up with newer facts. It is always helpful to consult with a doctor to choose a safe and right way to fast for a particular disease.