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Fasting regenerates immune system to reverse disease, aging; boost weight loss

Can fasting turn back the clock?
Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

When it comes to the potential of intermittent fasting (IF) diets, benefits may range from helping cancer patients to halting aging to accelerating weight loss. And scientists feel that the possibilities may even extend beyond those facets, including rebooting your metabolism, said Dr. Krista Varady in an interview Sunday with Dr. Mercola.

Researchers at the University of Southern California evaluated how fasting just two days each week impacted white blood cell counts. The changes to the body as a result of fasting appeared to rebuild the system, offering hope for those who have suffered damage to their immunity systems.

"It gives the OK for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system," summed up Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California. "If you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."

Author of "The Every-Other-Day Diet: The Diet That Lets You Eat All You Want (Half the Time) and Keep the Weight Off," Varady discovered that it's easier for people to diet when they know they can feast the following day. The modified fast on the alternate days limit food intake to 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men.

"It takes about a week to 10 days or so to get used to that up-down pattern of eating," she revealed. But after getting through that adjustment period, dieters say, "After a week, I had no problem eating just 500 calories every other day."

Not everyone agrees that you need to fast every other day to reap the benefits. Modified fasts just two days a week can also boost your immune system and your weight loss, science journalist Michael Mosley stated at Cheltenham Science Festival, according to the Gloucestershire Echo on Sunday.

In addition to providing a way to lose weight by dieting only twice a week, intermittent fasting can postpone dementia and cause new brain cells to grow, said Mosley. He is the author of "The FastDiet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting."

Mosley said he used himself as a guinea pig. In addition to losing weight, he lost seven percent of his body fat, four inches around his waist and reversed his diagnosis of pre-diabetes.

Other versions of the intermittent fasting plan refer to it as the 5:2 diet, such as Kate Harrison's "The 5:2 Diet: Feast for 5 Days, Fast for 2 Days to Lose Weight and Revitalize Your Health." She clarifies how to use five days of feasting interwoven with two days of modified fasts to shed pounds and boost your health.

In addition, a flock of fasting cookbooks have cropped up, such as "The FastDiet Cookbook: 150 Delicious, Calorie-Controlled Meals to Make Your Fasting Days Easy." And although it might sound like an oxymoron, these recipes do provide help in emphasizing the use of protein to stay full combined with vegetables for a low-calorie way to avoid hunger pangs.

How does intermittent fasting on restricted calories compare to complete fasting? By using the alternate day approach of consuming 500 to 600 calories every other day, you can achieve the same weight loss benefits as drinking only water for 24 hours, according to Dr. Mercola.

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