Pity this

However, some British experts were sceptical of the research.

Dr Graham Rook, emeritus professor of immunology at University College London, said the study sounded “improbable”.

The idea that fasting kickstarts the immune system.

The idea is that to save energy while starving the body dismantles parts of the immune system, surplus white blood cells. Then, when not fasting, they all come back but they’re all new.

Dunno, not a biologist, but how long do white blood cells last anyway before they’re recycled?

That fasting can have some beneficial effects might be true though. There’s at least one group out there claiming that real fasting (30 days or so) can cure Type II diabetes by getting rid of the fat in the pancreas (?).

11 comments on “Pity this

  1. Is a freshly minted white blood cell actually better than one that’s been around the block a few times?

  2. Life span about as long as any other bacterium, probably. Twenty minutes or so.

  3. Don’t know about the white blood cells, but losing weight and reducing calorie intake is a big thing for both reducing the probability of Type 2 diabetes.

    Interestingly, there’s a hypotheses that Alzheimers is another form of diabetes (‘Type 3’), which raises the possibility of using current diabetes prevention and treatments on Alzheimers.

  4. The outcome might be real, but by a different mechanism than the one they’re describing.

    Sounds like the folk advice: “Feed a fever, starve a cold.” (Or is it the other way round?)

  5. Re: Owain Shave — I have experience of this. I am big, but I was huge. I started my diet because my blood glucose level was 14.7, the average is between 3 and 7.

    Just by dieting and moderate exercise my blood glucose level, which I measure very morning before breakfast, is now between 5 and 6. So it seems reasonable to me, at least as a working hypothesis, that fasting would have a beneficial effect on Type II Diabetes. Of course, you would have to stop the habits that caused the diabetes in the first place.

  6. The diabetes thing though is nothing to do with pancreatic fat – it’s to do with fat in general. Fat cells mop up insulin like nobody’s business (hence, tldr: insulin resistance). So if you can’t produce enough insulin (but aren’t quite at the stage of needing pharmaceutical treatments to stave off the consequences of protracted hyperglycemia) to feed the fat cells and tell the other tissues to do stuff with sugar, losing some of that fat can put you back in balance.

    Indeed many type II diabetics (the classification is gonna get changed yet again because more and more TII need insulin so it confuses them to call them non-insulin-dependent) can successfully treat with diet and exercise alone, at least for a few years.

  7. @Ian B: Is a freshly minted white blood cell actually better than one that’s been around the block a few times?

    Simple answer, it can be:
    “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 ageing, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system.”

  8. Don’t tell the NHS this or they will claim that is why they are starving all those Old Age Pensioners to death – they are just trying to help.

  9. It isn’t necessary to “fast” in order to lose weight.

    But it does seem likely to me that the human metabolism does better if it is subjected to starvation now and then. After all, biologically we are primitive beings: in nature there’s not a lot to eat at the tag end of winter. Maybe we should reintroduce the Lenten fast.

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