Fasting diets are all the rage right now, with a variety of studies proclaiming all the magnificent health benefits that can be gained from abstaining from food for over 24 hours at a time.

However, one particularly novel study from MIT claims that in addition to swift weight loss and lower blood pressure, a 24-hour fast can “turn back the clock” on your intestinal stem cells’ functions.

As you grow older, your body’s stem cells slowly lose their ability to regenerate tissue and their replenishment also begins to decrease. Intestinal stem cells are key to repairing damage from injury or infection in your stomach, but they too get weaker with age.

But MIT discovered degeneration can be reversed through a strain of proteins called PPARs that trigger a metabolic shift after a period of fasting.


When MIT’s researchers cut off their test mice from food, they found that their stomach’s cells’ metabolism changed, going from burning carbs to metabolizing fatty acids. This activated a new pathway that energized their intestinal stem cells processes and improved cell division.

“This study provided evidence that fasting induces a metabolic switch in the intestinal stem cells, from utilizing carbohydrates to burning fat,” MIT professor David Sabatini said in a statement. “Interestingly, switching these cells to fatty acid oxidation enhanced their function significantly. Pharmacological targeting of this pathway may provide a therapeutic opportunity to improve tissue homeostasis in age-associated pathologies.”

This metabolism switch occurred by fasting triggering just one set of proteins called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors, or PPARs. These proteins are associated with using fatty acids to drive cell differentiation and division, and the fasting essentially put these functions into overdrive.


This discovery could be very important for cancer patients as chemotherapy aggressively attacks intestinal stem cells, as well as older people in general who suffer from stomach disorders. However, these are also the groups for whom fasting diets are most unviable, even dangerous.

Luckily, MIT’s team says the next step is to replicate the metabolic shift and positive effects of the PPARs using drugs and other medical treatments.

“In a beautiful set of experiments, the authors subvert the system by causing those metabolic changes without fasting and see similar effects,” University of Utah biochemisty expert Prof. Jason Rutter told MIT News, commenting on the research paper. “This work fits into a rapidly growing field that is demonstrating that nutrition and metabolism has profound effects on the behavior of cells and this can predispose for human disease.”

The ability of stem cells to regenerate your body’s functions is almost limitless. At RegenerVate, our team of experts use your own body’s stem cells to heal chronic joint and muscle pain. Contact us today for a consultation.