For our ancient ancestors, there was no such thing as fasting. It was called “going hungry” and they did everything in their power to prevent it. Not having enough food was a very common challenge for most people throughout history, and for some it was, and still is, a daily occurrence.
In fact, it could be argued that generations of food scarcity have actually shaped our evolution. We’re not some fragile creature that needs to eat every two hours to survive. We’re human beings, and we were made to go hungry from time to time. We were raised in a world of scarcity, and we’re perfectly capable of skipping a few meals here and there.
But why do I bring this up you might ask?
Because, for people living in the developed world, not having enough to eat is a very foreign concept. We have so much food that we’re practically throwing it away. This, in turn, has created a situation where we are eating more food than our bodies had ever evolved to consume. And if you need proof, all you have to do is examine the current rate of obesity among Americans, and how many deaths are caused by it.
Making matters worse, we’ve been told for years to avoid hunger at all costs. We were convinced that the human body was designed to “graze” and that we should all eat 6 small meals a day to lose weight and stay healthy. In reality, our bodies are so well adapted to states of hunger, that enduring things like intermittent fasting may actually be good for us.
But the most amazing health benefits don’t come from cutting your daily diet. A recent study conducted at the University of Southern California found that people who fast for three days can completely rejuvenate their entire immune system.
Although fasting diets have been criticised by nutritionists for being unhealthy, new research suggests starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells, which fight off infection.
Scientists at the University of Southern California say 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.
The researchers say fasting “flips a regenerative switch” which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.
“Flipping a switch” is an apt way to put it. Fasting gives your body the okay signal to discard the old and outdated and make room for the new. If your body was a computer, it would be like updating the software, making the system more resilient to viruses and malware. Old cells that are not up to snuff are removed to make way for a newer, more resilient immune system.
And since your immune system is not only responsible for preventing infections, but is also tasked with eliminating cancers and tumors, fasting can be a crucial part of the recovery process for cancer patients.
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 trials humans were asked to regularly fast for between two and four days over a six-month period.
Scientists found that prolonged fasting also reduced the enzyme PKA, which is linked to ageing and a hormone which increases cancer risk and tumour growth
But as you might expect, you can always rely on the medical establishment to ruin a perfectly natural process with profit-seeking drugs.
Chris Mason, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at UCL, said: “There is some interesting data here. It sees that fasting reduces the number and size of cells and then re-feeding at 72 hours saw a rebound.
“That could be potentially useful because that is not such a long time that it would be terribly harmful to someone with cancer.
“But I think the most sensible way forward would be to synthesize this effect with drugs. I am not sure fasting is the best idea. People are better eating on a regular basis.”
I’ll stick with fasting, thank you very much. Starving for three days may be long, arduous, and exhausting, but at least it’s free, natural, and perfectly healthy.