The human body is often considered a marvel due to its ability to take care of and regulate itself. Now, researchers have found a link between its pancreas regeneration and a simple fasting diet.
Image Source: Johanna Parkin
The US study, published in the scientific journal Cell, detailed an experiment done on mice and human cells where the animals were subjected to a four day fasting diet known as the fasting-mimicking diet (FMD), emulating a typical human vegan diet ranging from 800-1000 calories a day. After the course of these four days, the mice were allowed to revert to their normal diet for the next twenty-five days before being examined for any effects.
The findings were shocking: the effects of the diet triggered pre-natal development gene pathways in the pancreas, an organ in our body responsible for hormone secretion. In other words, by inducing expression of the ngn3 gene, which plays a role in regulating beta cell development, the pancreas was able to regenerate its beta cells—cells that perform the vital function of generating insulin for our body. Insulin is an integral peptide hormone of the body that plays a role in regulating metabolism by absorbing glucose from the bloodstream. Lack of insulin is the textbook definition of a disease that affects one and a quarter million Americans: type 1 diabetes.
There is currently no cure for type 1 diabetes. Therefore, the research has caused much excitement on finding a new way to combat and possibly cure the disease. Before the study, the only way to produce a similar effect in the pancreas was stem cell transplantation, as beta cells generally do not regenerate. Thus, a new door has opened—one that involves a specialized diet—on combating one of the world’s most common and lethal diseases.
Despite the substantial success that FMD caused in mice and human cells, the study’s co-author, Dr. Valter Longo from USC warned against trying something similar at home. “This should not be done at home with self-made diets and should be done under medical supervision,” he said. The next step forward would be to experimentally try the diet on humans, but researchers aren’t there yet.
Feature Image Source: Myriams-Fotos