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August 2019 (Vol. 4 Issue 6)

A 24-hour fast could reverse chronic gut problems in the elderly
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

A 24-hour fast could reverse chronic gut problems in the elderly image

If you're over the age of 60 and you suffer from gut problems, a day-long fast could be the answer. New research has discovered that fasting kick-starts the regeneration of the stem cells in our intestines, a natural function our body loses as we get older.

Gastrointestinal infections and other gut problems can become a chronic, long-term problem as we lose the ability to naturally regenerate intestinal stem cells, the source of all new cells in the gut.

But fasting for 24 hours can kick-start the process even when you are older, researchers from MIT have discovered. After fasting, our cells start to break down fatty acids instead of glucose, or blood sugar, and this metabolic switch is enough to start the regeneration of stem cells.

Intestinal stem cells maintain the lining of the intestine, and normally they renew themselves every five days or so. The process is vital following an injury or infection as it helps repair the damage—but this ability to renew declines as we get older.

The MIT researchers, who tested a group of laboratory mice of all ages, discovered that fasting doubled the regenerative abilities of the stem cells.


References

(Source: Cell Stem Cell, 2018; 22: 769)

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