MIT study: 24-hour fasting regenerates stem cells, doubles metabolism

This gives credence to the 5–2 diet, which has recently gained in popularity thanks to a large celebrity following.

empty plate knife fork plate wooden table
Pexels, user @Deena

Chances are you're probably thinking about food right now in some capacity. Maybe it's close to dinner and you're wondering what you are going to eat. Maybe you had a really good lunch and are fondly reminiscing about your BLT, or whatnot. Or maybe, just maybe, you're thinking about not eating food for a while.


If you're thinking about the latter, researchers at MIT have discovered that fasting for 24 hours flips a metabolic switch in mice, causing their guts to enhance their intestinal stem cells. Intestinal stem cells are what powers the intestine, and as people age this powerhouse starts to slow down. Ever wonder why you put on more weight as you get older? Thank your gut flora, including these cells.

The researchers found that fasting for just one day caused intestinal cell regeneration to double. While the trial has yet to be performed on humans, the biology behind these stem cells isn't wildly different to ours at all.

So, even though a 24 hour fast might make you hangry (hungry + angry, duh), it looks like it will undoubtedly speed up your metabolism. These cells regenerate on their own roughly every 4 days, so while it isn't our place at all to tell you how to diet much less tell you that fasting will work for everybody, the science is in. And celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and Benedict Cumberbatch have kept the pounds off over the years thanks to intermittent short fasts. One of the most popular of these diets is the 5–2 diet, which allows 5 days of eating normally and 2 days of severe caloric restrictions of 600 calories or less on the fasting days.

Those with diabetes or metabolic diseases should definitely consult a doctor before jumping in the deep and attempting a somewhat extreme diet. It's not for everyone, but the results achieved by the fasting appear to mimic cell autophagy, or "cellular cleaning" of damaged cells.

Not bad for just withholding, eh?

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