Can Fasting Supercharge Your Stem Cells?

By Chris Centeno, MD /

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fasting and stem cells

Can you make your stem cells better by short-term fasting? I get asked frequently by patients about what they can do to help their stem cells prior to a procedure. We developed a supplement a few years back based on intensive in vitro research. However, is there something else?

The Stem Cell Response to Aging

Aging affects our cells in a number of ways. For starters, homeostasis (balance), a primary function of the cell, becomes disrupted. This occurs when the endoplasmic reticulum, due to a loss of oxidative power, becomes less able to communicate outside of the cell. This affects the secretion of proteins and results in protein misfolding, leading to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Another way aging impacts our cells is through our mitochondria (our cells’ power supply). Just like a dying battery in your smartphone can cause problems, so can the dying batteries in our cells. One study found that stem cells can recharge dying cells by transferring mitochondrial power to the dying cell. So as we age and our stem cells lose function, they also lose their ability to regenerate.

Possible solutions to slowing aging and rejuvenating stem cells I’ve covered in the past include NAD or CoQ10 supplementation and exercise. Now, a new study suggests another solution for the loss of stem cell function as we age might be fasting.

Below you’ll find my video on what we have found with regard to aging and stem cell outcome:

Fasting May Help Stem Cells Reclaim Their Ability to Regenerate

In a new study, researchers looked specifically at stem cells in the intestinal tract and how they respond to fasting. They discovered that intestinal stem cells, in mouse subjects, were better able to regenerate after just 24 hours of fasting—in fact the stem cells’ ability to regenerate in the fasting mice was doubled! The reason this occurs, according to the researchers, is because rather than metabolizing glucose (blood sugar) for energy, the mice began to metabolize fatty acids. In other words, rather than burning carbs, they’re burning fat, and this metabolic change incites intestinal stem cell regeneration.

This follows on the heels of another fasting study I shared last year that found an increase in stem cell function in not only the intestines but also the muscle and nerve stem cells as well as the hematopoietic, or blood-producing, stem cells.

Fasting: It’s Not Just for Stem Cells

Knowing that fasting could possibly be the impetus to our stem cells’ ability to regenerate and reclaim function is just another of many benefits that are associated with fasting.

Another study found that an altered fasting program called the fasting-mimicking diet reprograms the pancreatic cells, restoring insulin secretion in diabetes. This one led researchers to suggest that diabetes symptoms can be reversed with the proper diet, and since nearly a million and a half Americans will be diagnosed with diabetes this year alone, it’s good to know something as simple as diet may be a solution.

We also know that fasting for as little as 24 hours reduces leptin levels. Leptin is a hormone that tells us we’re full so we know to stop eating. The more we eat, the more our bodies secrete leptin to try to tame our appetite. One study found that the excess of leptin, which is an inflammatory hormone, in our system can increase our risk for arthritis. Fasting, therefore, may indirectly lower this risk as it reduces leptin.

The upshot? If you’re considering a same-day stem cell procedure, consider 24 hours of fasting prior to the stem cell harvest. If that’s too hard, you might consider a few days of one of the low-calorie fasting mimicking diet plans, like Prolon. Either way, there’s now something else to consider to supercharge your cells!

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6 thoughts on “Can Fasting Supercharge Your Stem Cells?

  1. Joe LaValle

    Would the same 24 hour fasting recommendation apply prior to aspiration with the Cayman procedure? Seems like it would – but want to confirm….

    1. Regenexx Team

      Joe,

      Yes, it does.

  2. Sherry Heffner

    I looked on the Prolon site and could not find a listing of ingredients for their packaged food. I contact them via chat and they told me they had no ingredient listings. Does anyone buy processed food anymore without knowing what’s in it? I assume since you mentioned them on your blog that you trust this company, I find it baffling in today’s age that I wouldn’t be able to know what was in their products.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Sherry,
      If you follow all the links on the website and go through the FAQs section, there is information on ingredients, but not an ingredient list.

  3. Peter

    Would you address the effect of fasting or time restricted feeding just before PRP treatment? And during the weeks/months that follow PRP? According to Valter Longo circulating stem cells are increased for a number of days (about 300% in his test group).

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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