Scientists have conducted tests on mice showing that fasting could have many health benefits. Fasting is eating or drinking very little or nothing for a short period of time. It is usually around 24 hours but can be for a few days. The tests were carried out by scientists at universities in the USA and Italy. They found that occasional fasting in mice could reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other diseases. The scientists fed mice for four days on a low-calorie, low-protein and low-carbohydrate but high-fat diet. They then gave the mice just 10% of their normal calorie intake for three days. The scientists found this diet made the pancreas in the mice work better.
The pancreas is an organ in the body that uses special cells called beta cells to produce the hormone insulin. The body uses insulin to break down glucose (a kind of sugar) in the blood. People with diabetes have trouble producing enough insulin so they have health problems because there is too much sugar in their blood. This can cause death. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops producing insulin. In type 2 diabetes, either not enough insulin is produced or the insulin that is produced has no effect. Scientists said the mice on the fasting diet produced increased amounts of beta cells and insulin. They said their results were very promising and that tests now need to be done on humans.