JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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Remarkable boost for immune systems after fasting

There’s a fascinating study out this week suggesting that if we fast for three or four days a couple of times a year we can regenerate white blood stem cells. Fasting cuts down the number of white blood cells during the fast, but afterwards they recover, and then some.

This new result comes from both mice and phase I clinical human trials.  Probably in paleolithic times, famine or at least hungry days were a part of nearly everyone’s life. Many different philosophies and religions have fasting traditions. Apparently our genes are selected to deal with that, and being short of food makes the immune system do a kind of efficiency sweep. Perhaps access to unnaturally continuous food stops our stem cells from reactivating?  Something to think about from Killjoy Jo. ;-) Yes, fasting is not exactly fun, but nor is cancer. For what it’s worth, the hard part of a fast is usually the start.

Obviously, consult your doc, do your own research, etc.

The NZ Herald

Fasting for three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as remarkable.

University of Southern California

Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system

“We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system,”

In the first evidence of a natural intervention triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system, a study in the June 5 issue of the Cell Stem Cell shows that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage — a major side effect of chemotherapy — but also induce immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.

In both mice and a Phase 1 human clinical trial, long periods of not eating significantly lowered white blood cell counts. In mice, fasting cycles then “flipped a regenerative switch,” changing the signaling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems, the research showed.

The study has major implications for healthier aging, in which immune system decline contributes to increased susceptibility to disease as people age. By outlining how prolonged fasting cycles — periods of no food for two to four days at a time over the course of six months — kill older and damaged immune cells and generate new ones, the research also has implications for chemotherapy tolerance and for those with a wide range of immune system deficiencies, including autoimmunity disorders.

“We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system,” said corresponding author Valter Longo, Edna M. Jones Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute. Longo has a joint appointment at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“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,” Longo said. “What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?”

Fasting cycles

Prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose, fat and ketones, but it also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells. Longo likens the effect to lightening a plane of excess cargo.

During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells. In particular, prolonged fasting reduced the enzyme PKA, an effect previously discovered by the Longo team to extend longevity in simple organisms and which has been linked in other research to the regulation of stem cell self-renewal and pluripotency — that is, the potential for one cell to develop into many different cell types. Prolonged fasting also lowered levels of IGF-1, a growth-factor hormone that Longo and others have linked to aging, tumor progression and cancer risk.

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.

“PKA is the key gene that needs to shut down in order for these stem cells to switch into regenerative mode. It gives the OK for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system,” explained Longo, noting the potential of clinical applications that mimic the effects of prolonged fasting to rejuvenate the 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 aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system.”

Prolonged fasting also protected against toxicity in a pilot clinical trial in which a small group of patients fasted for a 72-hour period prior to chemotherapy, extending Longo’s influential past research.

“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 co-author Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital. “More clinical studies are needed, and any such dietary intervention should be undertaken only under the guidance of a physician.”

“We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system,” said Longo, whose lab is in the process of conducting further research on controlled dietary interventions and stem cell regeneration in both animal and clinical studies.

see also  Tech Times

A summary by Hines has a similar message. Aging is tough on immune systems, so is chemo, and short fasts were useful. Hines remarks that with changes in gene expression and metabolism, fasting makes coordinated changes that are hard to achieve with drugs.

The implications of this work. How do the cancer stem cells respond to fasting? (That seems pretty important – it might promote cancer survival too.) How does it work?

The current work raises a number of fascinating questions. First, why is increased mitotic activity of HSCs associated with improved survival upon genotoxic stress?

Second, how do cancer stem cells, which are thought to utilize oxidative metabolic pathways more like HSCs than differentiated cancer cells (Lagadinou et al., 2013), respond to fasting cycles?

Will people start to test and using fasting or will they just look for drugs to mimic it?

h/t to Robert, and Randy.

REFERENCE

Chia-Wei Cheng, Gregor B. Adams, Laura Perin, Min Wei, Xiaoying Zhou, Ben S. Lam, Stefano Da Sacco, Mario Mirisola, David I. Quinn, Tanya B. Dorff, John J. Kopchick, Valter D. Longo. Prolonged Fasting Reduces IGF-1/PKA to Promote Hematopoietic-Stem-Cell-Based Regeneration and Reverse Immunosuppression. Cell Stem Cell, 2014; 14 (6): 810 DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2014.04.014 [PubMed]

Hine C, Mitchell JR. (2014) Saying No to Drugs: Fasting Protects Hematopoietic Stem Cells from Chemotherapy and Aging.   Cell Stem Cell. 2014 Jun 5;14(6):704-705. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2014.05.016. PMID:24905161 [PubMed]

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60 comments to Remarkable boost for immune systems after fasting

  • #
    Yonniestone

    I have a couple of pages from the Spartan Health Regime with information on fasting that reflects some of the findings above, but I’ll only post them if it’s ok with Jo or the moderators.
    I’ll scan them into a PDF maybe?


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      Yonnie, the only issue if it’s on topic is copyright. As long as it does not breach that — credits and links, and not too much of the total work, that should be fine. Thanks.


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      Richard111

      Sounds good to me. We have a relative undergoing chemotherapy for a brain tumour. Will send a message to check her GP is up to speed on this subject. Question; what exactly constitutes a FAST? for how long? what do you drink? TIA.


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        bobl

        You will not find oncologists too receptive to this line of research. Most doctors will discard any therapy that is natural as being akin to voodoo, no matter how well researched. However one useful thing I came across is that there is significant evidence that sodium bicarbonate can potentiate chemotherapy by neutralising lactic acid in cancer, which has the bad habit of protonating chemotherapy drugs ( breaking them apart ) before they can reach the nucleus of the cancer cells.
        As discussed in a previous thread, recent research also shows that certain natural substances and common drugs eg Aspirin, heparin can slow down metastasis, it’s not usually single tumors that kill, it’s rampant spread and multiple tumors in vital organs.


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      • #

        Richard, the way to help oncologists is to print out abstracts from Pubmed. Sadly that means putting in some time to learn the acronyms which make reading those abstracts like hieroglyphics. It’s even better if you can get access to the papers. I have gone to the medical library of a local uni and printed out an inch of the most recent reviews and papers. Most universities will be fine with that and have subscriptions to the papers.(You pay for printing cards, or you may be able to copy the pdfs to a USB).

        Doctors are continually approached by people who read something on the internet, so you can understand them being skeptical. But they don’t have time to read the latest reviews on every part of their specialty. The specialist I spoke too changed his attitude when he saw the printouts were not “webdoc” but BMJ etc. Reviews are probably the most useful and readable. If there are human trials that’s obviously much better than rodent or lesser. Unfortunately the ideal study certainly hasn’t been done, and it will take some art in interpreting what evidence there is.

        The fasts here were 48 – 96 hours. But I’d have to read the paper to see if they were water fasts or 500cal fasts.

        If it were me I would find the researchers who did the most useful studies and send them an email with a direct but short question. The oncologist may even be talked into calling them. It takes determination though.

        Pubmed is a fantastic resource, just think carefully about the keywords or you will drown in the data.


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          bobl

          Even that doesn’t work in my experience. Part of the problem is the way their liability insurance works. Only treatments that are recognised by the relevant professional organisations are “safe” to prescribe. There is a huge resistance to new things, yet radiation, which has never been proven beneficial in any systematic way, is fine – because it’s recognised.

          So doctors have become incredibly risk averse.

          One problem is the way science develops “cures” a promising chemical that cures the disease in a test tube (in vitro) may be tested in a mouse model and found effective, but in humans the treatment is evaluated statistically, and pretty much only on terminal patients. If there is no increase in survival then it is considered a failure and struck off. But the statistical failure of a treatment doesn’t preclude it having an effect, for example the improvement in the cancer might have been cancelled by some other side effect, so while the drug kills cancer mortality might not be affected, secondly the drug may have no useful impact on advanced cancer but might be useful in early cancer treatment for example, an anti-metastasis effect but is never tried on that because it failed on advanced cancer cases.

          What we need is objective bio-medical evidence instead of statistical survival. Science needs to focus on mechanisms – biochemistry – hard science. Rather than trying to infer results statistically. It’s a lot like climate change, statistics say nothing about cause and effect.

          If a treatment or food regresses cancer in a test tube, the question needs to be answered, why doesn’t it work in-vivo. In my view, the reasons for failure are never properly investigated ( there’s no money in that – just like climate scepticism), and treatments / foods are discarded in ignorance of exactly why they fail. The way we do science is too corrupted by applications, it’s important to understand why things fail, as much as it is for them to succeed, but guess what gets the funding. Science funding needs a complete overhaul in my opinion.

          Ps if we knew more about how treatments fail, the we would understand cancer much better than we do.


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          janama

          I fasted for two weeks once. The hardest part is getting over the first 4 days, if you can crack that it’s clear sailing there on. All I took was lemon – I’d pour boiling water over a large tumbler of chopped lemon and let it seep and cool. Then I’d drink that all day – I continued to work and lead a normal life BTW.
          We should do it regularly IMO – I’m just too lazy to do it :)


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      Yonniestone

      http://s1295.photobucket.com/user/Yonniestone/library/Spartan%20fasting I hope this works ok, I had trouble with my scanner but just enlarge the pictures and they should be ok to read. cheers.


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  • #
    bilbaoboy

    Jo

    What do we mean by fasting?

    No food?
    Highly reduced food?
    Strictly water only?
    No water?

    Thanks


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      Frustratingly I don’t know. I’ve got the paper in front of me, but not the info we need.

      ” Mice are either fasted for 48 hr or fed ad libitum before chemotherapy treatment.”

      Sometimes fasting is 0 cals, sometimes it’s more like 25% of normal calories.

      The Hine paper at Cell Stem Cell has an email address for one of the authors. If anyone finds out, please let us know. There is an email for enquires about Cheng too. The Cheng paper is here – Good news, that is freely available. PDF. Download the whole paper free.
      Lots of good diagrams there.


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      Jon

      “The Lenten period of the Liturgical year Church calendar, being the six weeks directly before Easter, was marked by fasting and other pious or penitential practices. Traditionally during Lent, no parties or other celebrations were held, and people refrained from eating rich foods, such as meat, dairy, fats and sugar. The forty days of Lent, recalling the Gospel accounts of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, serve to mark an annual time of turning. In the days before Lent, all rich food and drink had to be disposed of. The consumption of this, in a giant party that involved the whole community, is thought to be the origin of Carnival.[2]”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnival


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        Annie

        Hence the original Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, when foods were used up. Eggs were used up in pancakes.


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          Jon

          And this has evolved further, sexually?, into the great carnival in Rio?


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            Jon

            But maybe the timing for the christian fasting is wrong? When do we need our imune defence system to be at 100%?
            Late autumn and early winter with its cold?
            Or maybe fasting at least once a month, except late autumn and during winter?


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        bananabender

        The Lenten fasting probably originated as a religious doctrine to reduce food consumption during Spring. This is the critical period for starvation in the Northern Hemeisphere as food stores are exhausted and new crops are still maturing.


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  • #

    This old book on the subject just keeps getting proven correct.
    After my first read i bought six copies and gave them to friends.
    http://www.amazon.com/Fasting-Can-Save-Your-Life/dp/0914532421


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    Stephen Richards

    There was a minister of transport in the UK named Marples, Ernest Marples. He fasted for a week at a time and died young.


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    ROM

    Jo, You’re too darn good and quick!

    I picked this up in Science Daily this morning and was about to do a post on it when lo and behold Jo has posted it already with even more detail.

    And as Jo says, our genetic traits are geared to handling periods of food shortage as well as excess, a couple of millions of years long selective adaption trait where those whose genetic traits could not cope with highly variable periods of shortage and plenty were weeded out leaving that ability to use periods of food shortages as an advantageous characteristic which is still very evident in our human population today as is just again being discovered.

    The short period food shortage coping genetic mechanism is geared to the nomadic hunter-gatherer life where game both small and large and root products and fruits could be highly variable in both time, season and area.

    That genetic trait has only become redundant if you could call it redundant since the latter part of the 20th century.

    The last Famine apart from the manmade ones of Biafra, Sudan. Somalia, the 2012 Sahel drought and etc was the Bangaladesh famine of 1974 where an estimated one million people died. This famine in part was also part human created and was made much worse by the abject corruption and incompetence of the bureaucrats of the new state of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, following it’s Independence War with what was the then dominant West Pakistan.

    One of the worst and near last of the naturally arisen famines of the modern famines as distinct from the numerous man made famines due to war and conflict was the Great Bengal Famine of 1943 where 1.5 to 4 million people died.

    After the rise of agriculture over a period of perhaps some three or four thousand years, starting some 12,000 years ago, mankind slowly shifted from hunter-gatherer to a fully settled agricultural based civilisation.

    Those periods of food shortage and hunger during the very long hunter-gatherer era , with the advent of agriculture and a settled village existence and an increasing global population turned what had been short periods of food shortages where the nomadic peoples had the space to move hundreds of kilometres to new areas in search of food,

    Famines where not just a few of the few tens of millions of hunter gatherers around the world went hungry [ 10,000 years ago the human population of the planet is estimated at between 5 and 10 million people ] and perhaps starved, but where human populations now ran into the hundreds of millions [ in 1800 or thereabouts the global population reached a billion people ] the human race then experienced famines, food shortages of long duration where unlike those hunter gatherers of old, those millions of staring people could not just get up and walk the couple of hundred kilometres to where there was still game and other natural foods in sufficient amounts to feed those small numbers of the tribal groups.

    According to the Wiki list of famines [ if William Connolley hasn't altered and corrupted this as well ] there have been [ to quote Wiki ]

    Between 108 BC and 1911 AD there were no fewer than 1,828 major famines in China, or one nearly every year in one or another province; however, the famines varied greatly in severity.[1][2] There were 95 famines in Britain during the Middle Ages.[3][4]

    Obviously that is only a small portion of the total number of famines that mankind has experienced since the start of agriculture and the increase in the global populations since the beginnings of agriculture some 12,000 years ago.

    There is no doubt more food in the world per capita than at any time since the beginnings of agriculture some 12,000 years ago but the really big advance is the ability to shift vast tonnage’s of food from regions of production and plenty to regions of need or possibly shortage using the immensity and complexity and inter weaving of the global transport networks to anywhere in the world within days or a couple of weeks if required.
    We have only been able to shift food on such a large scale between areas of plenty to areas of shortage or need for no more than a century at most and some would argue for only the last 50 years of the 20th century.
    The average global food grain pipeline such as for wheat is about 26 to 30 days long.

    From when the farmer accepts a price and contract for his grain and then starts to truck it out of the storage to when that grain after trucking, rail freighting, shipping, milling, processing, baking, transporting to the retail outlets as bread and flour based products is about 26 to 30 days from the grain grower to the consumer perhaps somewhere half a world away.

    And our ability to do this is based entirely and completely on the ready availability of cheap, always there energy, all of it used in the global transport network being totally and exclusively fossil fuel based.

    And that is why we here in the west and increasingly right around the world no longer have need of the genetic trait that allows mankind to both handle and possibly even benefit from short periods of food deprivation.


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  • #

    My mind is open but my mouth is open wider. Not into deprivation on principle – how I light up during Earth Hour, the Orgy of Ingratitude! – but I’m also wary for other reasons. This latest SoCal fast (now with added science) is the sort of thing which appeals to people who buy skimmed organic Fair-Trade GM-free sheep’s milk with which to wreck a cup of tea.

    Not saying the theory is wrong, but in the old days of fasting due to scarcity people didn’t live long enough to get cancer. Hell, they died like flies back then. Or like lab-rats.


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      bananabender

      Not saying the theory is wrong, but in the old days of fasting due to scarcity people didn’t live long enough to get cancer.

      Most of the increase in life expectancy over the past 150 years is due to massively reduced child mortality. People who reached adulthood had similar life expectancies to modern Westerners. The people of Kitava who have a primitive subsistence lifestyle frequently live into their 80s and 90s (with far better health than most Westerners).

      http://www.staffanlindeberg.com/TheKitavaStudy.html


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        bb, my lunch today was a cold pickle of locally caught fish and some home-grown cucumbers tossed into home-made yogurt. I’m attracted to good food. I guess I shovel more peas and pulses than anyone I know, but I prepare them as interesting meals, not as health food. What I’ve noticed is that people who force themselves to eat good things as punishment and obsessively avoid salt, fat, sugar at home are frequently driven to eating out, where they can get all the muck they crave without having to see it added to their food. You can expect such people to inflict their intellectualised Kitava or Trobriand diet on themselves and those around them…but not to eat well. Fasting might not be bad, but a fascination with food avoidance is a real worry. When I feel it coming on, I have a soggy Big Mac just to get back into balance. Mind you, one of those is enough for a long, long time.


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        Steve

        Well yes and I find it intriguing that most of the large decline in child mortaility in Australia seems to have occurred pre-1970 ( which is also for the most part, before widespread use of vaccines ), according to ABS figures from Year Books. I suspect better housing standards and sewers and hospitals etc probably had a large impact.


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          bananabender

          Engineers and scientists are almost entirely responsible (sewerage, clean water, refrigeration, vaccination and antibiotics) for the great reduction in mortality. Yet somehow the public was brainwashed into thinking (medical) ‘doctors’ are responsible for all the massive health improvements of the past 150 years.


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  • #
    realist

    Jo, a minor grammatical correction (bold) should be immune disorders at: “the research also has implications for chemotherapy tolerance and for those with a wide range of immune system deficiencies, including autoimmunity disorders“.

    ABC journalists contract these particular disorders from Kool Aid provided by the ABC high priests and certain political parties when they preach blatant rubbish on climate science, stack programs with lefties and exhibit similar politically biased behaviour.

    Typical diagnostic behaviour includes a distinct tendency to lean to the left as if unbalanced, twitch uncontrollably when faced with civility from an opposing point of view, interupt when cornered with lies and no evidence to support wild assertions, and make unwarranted personal attacks on anyone who counters their lies with empirical evidence. Research suggests those afflicted have a mind with a major deficiency of common sense called “leftism disorder”. Recommended treatment is a daily dose of joannenova.com.au and permanent fasting from all ABC stations and Fairfax newspapers.

    Incidentally, “disorders” is medical language code for, “we don’t really know what the causal links are so we’ll lump it into the disorder category, so it sounds bad”. That’s simply a strategy to secure grant money to help pay the mortgage. It’s no different to climate “science”. Yes, I know this is a bit cynical, but unfortunately that’s how it is.


    Thanks. I think the error is in the quote, so I’ll leave it. Yes, medicine is a field with many vested interests as well as many good people, but hideous complexity. Sigh. – Jo


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    bobl

    Jo, thank you for expanding your postings to medicine.


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    Stephen Wilde

    Consuming less calories than the system is burning should have the same effect should it not?

    After a while, the body produces and burns ketonese to cover the calorific deficit which is just the same process.

    Why should the fast have to be complete for as long as 3 days?


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      bobl

      I think so, I think a lot of the benefit comes from the body switching from metabolising glucose to ketones and back again. Ketogenic diets have been shown not to help much if they are sustained, the cancer adapts eventually by selecting an adapted genotype. I have wondered whether rapid and regular shifting from ketogenic diet to glucogenic ( is that a word? ) would work, causing the frequent starvation of the cancer in the ketogenic phase, while minimising adaptation by allowwing just enough glucose.


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      Stephen, I very much doubt it would have the same effect. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be good, but it would be different. A swathe of genes (something like 50 or so if I recall) are upregulated and others downregulated in response to fasting, and a different set are changed with exercise — and some of them are likely to be conflicting shifts.

      The other problem is that it’s really difficult to measure calories of exercise. IMO most of the calculated tables are junk. It varies so much person to person I think a metabolic chamber of sorts is the only way to measure it. Food is so much easier to measure.

      It takes about three days of an ultra low carbohydrate diet to drop blood sugar to the baseline. We have stores of glycogen etc to burn, though I suppose if you do a serious workout that would make it happen faster.

      But serious workouts are designed to stimulate repair and building processes, whilst fasting shifts gears to breakdown things that are not performing efficiently. The process is to reuse the building blocks in a better way. Apparently we need to get rid of the deadwood and start again. These are very different processes.


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    Tim

    I’m no expert, but I wonder what happens to the ‘digestive juices’, when the supply of food is turned off? Are all those enzymes and acids that the body stores between meals still released automatically with a hunger response into the stomach, duodenum and colon if no food is present?

    I would have thought they may do some damage to the lining of the digestive tract.


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    • #

      Bodies are pretty good at handling food. While we have body clocks that trigger things according to time of day — if you eat a meal at the wrong time, the juices still flow when you need them. They work in response to signals. If you fast, once your body gets the idea that there isn’t any food on offer, hunger (and apparently juices too) subside. All healthy animals are pretty well adapted and efficient at this sort of thing. Evolution favours those with efficient digestion.


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        Ian George

        Jo
        I know this from experience. I started a low cal diet a few years ago and immediately had terrible pains in the stomach after eating. I presumed it was the reaction of the stomach juices expecting more food than was actually eaten. It settled down within a week or two. Lost 16kgs in 4 months so well worth it.


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        tom0mason

        So this post is to stop us getting juices flowing?

        :)


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    Stephen Richards

    bananabender

    June 8, 2014 at 7:05 pm · Reply

    He died at age 71.

    That is young here. My neighbours are 80, 78, 85, 92 and I’m near Marples. It’s young, believe me, but it’s just about an OK time.


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    realist

    “Hines remarks that with changes in gene expression and metabolism, fasting makes coordinated changes that are hard to achieve with drugs.” And to Jo’s question: “The implications of this work. How do the cancer stem cells respond to fasting? (That seems pretty important – it might promote cancer survival too.) How does it work?”

    Perhaps different questions to ask are; What gene expression(s) drive cell response? What sets up (responds to a trigger) and governs a cascade of cell responses when cell replication goes off track? As when cancer cells turn up (normal cells don’t replicate properly? As someone once said, “It’s in the genes”, i.e. the DNA/mRNA sequencing and transfer that govern our lives.

    The first rules of good science (not always easy to find): 1. Have an open mind and expect the unexpected to over-turn your existing paradigm. 2. Seek the cause behind the effect, and the next cause behind that effect, etc, etc until you find that evasive but eternal truth. Sometimes the answer is simple, yet so often we look down the wrong rabbit hole in the wrong rabbit warren (where life is comfortable in our own ignorance). A wisdom seldom expressed: It’s not the height and breadth of our understanding that we should applaud, but the effort applied towards understanding the depths of our ignorance. Humility often opens doors to insight and possibilities.

    We were not born with a deficiency of medication, chemotherapy, medical device or any other medical or psychological intervention, as some might have us think. We are constantly being replaced at a cellular level and we are literally not the same person we were last year, last month, hour, minute, etc.

    It’s complex, as that example illustrates, but at the same time also deceptively simple. We have evolved with an adaptive gene system, as other organisms have, to our ever changing environment. How our body responds to fasting, or for that matter, anything else, is an adaptive response our gene bank has as one of a myriad of possibilities in cascades of cause and effect relationships, which science (defined as the capability of technology that measure and quantify) has a long way to go to discover.

    And then there are factors instrumentation is incapable of measuring, such as the so-called spontaneous remission to cancer, or what we sometimes call, mind over matter. For those who have been there, it does work provide you are totally motivated. We have genes that can literally turn on our immune system to eliminate abberant cells. And we can unwittingly compromise it by poor lifestyle choices. I sometimes ask the question: do your thoughts originate from inside, or outside your head? The variation in response is interesting. A religious script says, “let there be light”, which means let there be knowledge, or in different words, don’t let yourself suffer from paradigm paralysis. Life does have an endless array of possiblities and outcomes.


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    janama

    I fasted because I read somewhere that 60 – 80% of your body’s energy is spent on digesting and processing food. Take that away and your body has extra energy to repair itself.


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      bananabender

      About 80% (>90% in polar regions) of our energy intake is used to keep our core temperature at 37C. Eating and digesting food only uses a few percent of the calories eaten.


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    michael hart

    I’d be interested to see what effect, if any, it has on the antigen-specific response to immune challenge. Some T-cells and B-cells are old “memory” cells that provide the protective immunity from vaccinations or from previous infections that were successfully fought off.

    New lineages generated from stem cells are “naïve” because they have not encountered the agent(s) that induced protective immunity.


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    Nic

    There exists a control sample to test this.

    My understanding from work colleagues is that many Hindi’s routinely fast one day a week (abstinence from solid food, not from water).

    I do not think that the control group should be based on middle eastern Muslims since the daytime abstinence from food and water during the month of Ramadam can be followed by quite vigourous feasting after sunset. So it only counts as a 12 hours “off” followed by 12 hours of “pigging out”.
    For myself, I found that the shift pattern I work leads to 3 days a week with no wine or beer and light eating. Which seems to have a beneficial effect.
    The idea of a weekly fast of one day (for example) seems interesting – we are built to cope with periods of plenty and then to be able to store the excess to get us through the leaner times.


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      bananabender

      The physiological effects from one day of fasting are probably very different to three days of fasting. eg It takes about three days to exhaust the glycogen stores and to induce ketosis in healthy individuals.


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    Power Grab

    Does anyone here know of any actual individual(s) who have actually cured themselves of a serious illness by fasting like the study describes?

    And how does one keep their elimination functioning if no food is entering is for days at a time?


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    Jack

    Anyone know if this news about fasting and a boosted immune system is somehow related to the story from earlier this year about a starvation diet and a ‘cure’ for Type 2 diabetes/


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      Jack, yes, loosely, in the sense that there are many studies showing benefits from fasting on different organs, and that many benefits are connected to insulin or Insulin like growth factor (IGF-1). But no, in the sense that I don’t think another study has demonstrated the stem cell connection (I might be wrong). It’s possible that different stem cells may have been reactivated and contributed to the improvement in Type II diabetes — but the diabetes study did not look for that.


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      KinkyKeith

      Interesting question which may be answered by an examination of the origin of the “discovery” of type 2 diabetes after World War 11.

      Despite the poor living conditions during the war there were many births which occurred, and many years later a cluster of people

      conceived around what was called the “Dutch winter Hunger” were found to be particularly responsive ( in a bad way) to increased calorie

      intake.

      This high cal intake, when food became more plentiful, was much higher than that experienced during pregnancy and was “abnormal” to the

      point that the insulin settings given to the children during growth in the womb was unable to cope with the new reality of hi cal intake.

      KK


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    It is DEFINITELY time for lunch right now.


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      Peter C

      Phillipa,

      I am with you! Lets have lunch.
      Too little food is a lot worse than too much.

      Prolonged fasting is fatal! Not sure about a bit of fasting.


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    Mark F

    Hmm. I’ve never fasted on an organ.


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    tobyglyn

    Fasting is how I dealt with (many years ago) both an antibiotic resistant prostate infection and also on another occasion, acute appendicitis.

    Did two weeks on raw food followed by 7 days on just water then back to two weeks raw food before going back to normal eating.

    In both cases (several years apart) I was cured.

    The first 3 or 4 days on just water are the worst. After that you start to feel OK again. In my case, around day 6, I was feeling like I didn’t need food at all.


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    Rogueelement451

    I do the 2/5 diet , have done for about 16 months now. No eating on a Monday or a Thursday. I do however continue to have an alcoholic drink should I wish (mostly I do wish).That being in lieu of the allowable 500 cals you are normally permitted.
    Having lost about 10kg over that period I think it is a lifestyle choice.We all overeat , ok not you ms/mr picky ,and not eating on a Monday is easy as ,er, pie ,since mostly weekends are binge time.Thursdays are a tad more difficult.
    Apart from fasting for the weight loss, the other side effects are lower blood pressure ,lower cholesterol levels and an increase in general well being it also reduces the risk of diabetes which is more common in overweight people..It does,nt hurt and it makes you healthier ,what do you have to lose ?
    Plus! you spend less on food = more beer money available! A win win if you ask me. Love – Homer Simson


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    Stan

    Jo: “For what it’s worth, the hard part of a fast is usually the start.”

    Not in my experience – I find the first 30 minutes of a fast actually quite easy!!!


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    spoils

    What would happen regarding any medications you may be taking while fasting? (e.g. blood pressure drugs etc.) Many, many people are taking something, especially older ones. Are you a young person, tobyglyn? Do you take medications? I like the sound of your method. Regards.


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    Jack

    Don’t know if the details of the fast have been mentioned yet but according to one of the authors of the study, Valter Longo, the fast lasted for about 3 days and calorie intake was limited to between 400 and 1,000 calories a day. A 1000 calories a day isn’t much of a fast even for a man. In a hurry skip lunch, only have time for a small meal for dinner and you’re down to a 1,000 calories with little effort. 400 calories a day would be a challenge for anything more than a day or two.

    http://www.worldmag.com/2014/06/need_an_immune_system_boost_try_a_three_day_fast


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