A surprising new study out of the University of Southern California has found that routine but limited periods of fasting up to four days at a time restores a damaged immune system by increasing white blood cell count. What’s more even more unexpected is that researchers say that fasting could be most beneficial in people with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients and people struggling with other diseases that affect crucial cells. Fasting also mitigates the harmful effects of chemotherapy, making the study results particularly significant for cancer patients.
Fasting tells stem cells within the body to begin producing white blood cells, and in this way regenerates a person’s immune system as a whole. This happens because the person’s body is starving and thus, trying to conserve as much energy as possible. A side effect of this energy conservation is the obliteration of old, weak or otherwise damaged immune cells.
Previously, anyone looking to undertake a fast might have been given the advice to embark on a period of no food only if completely healthy. Now, it appears that advice may be incomplete. According to the study, elderly people and people in poor health might be the ones to benefit most from prolonged fasting. However, the researchers warn that any attempts at fasting should still be overseen by a person’s doctor.
The scientists who performed the study say the results are “remarkable” and indeed, the outcome contradicts previous conventional wisdom. Now it appears that fasting restores a damaged immune system and mitigates the harmful effects of chemotherapy. As with most stand-alone studies, more research is needed to determine whether these results can be replicated and therefore scientifically sound.