Lab report

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 June, 2014, 10:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 June, 2014, 10:01am

Life in the fast lane

Fasting for three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as "remarkable". Although fasting diets have been criticised by nutritionists, research suggests that starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing more white blood cells, which fight off infection. Scientists at the University of Southern California say the discovery could be particularly beneficial for those suffering from damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients on chemotherapy. It could also help the elderly whose immune systems become less effective. The researchers say that fasting "flips a regenerative switch" which prompts stem cells to create white blood cells, essentially restoring the immune system.


Early to bed is best

A lack of sleep does more than affect your mood, it can play havoc with your health, research shows. Sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of many serious health problems. These include obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression, heart attacks and strokes, as well as premature death and reduced quality of life and productivity, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Keep your cool

An easy health boost may be as close as the nearest thermostat, a new study suggests. Australian researchers found that cooler indoor temperatures stimulate the growth of healthy brown fat, while warm temperatures reduce it. Studies found that brown fat burns energy to generate body heat: it's designed to help keep babies warm. Prior research has also shown that animals with plentiful brown fat are less likely to develop obesity or diabetes.

Always follow up

After an emergency-room visit for chest pain, people who follow up with a doctor are less likely to have a heart attack or die in the next year than those who do nothing, Canadian researchers say. Based on more than 200,000 patients at low risk for heart attack who were seen in an Ontario ER for chest pain, the study team found that almost 30 per cent never went for any kind of follow-up. Those who did tended to have a better survival rate.