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Is there a scope for 'fasting' in the context of cancer prevention and care?

Updated: Oct 25, 2019

What the latest research is telling us about the practice of 'fasting' for cancer prevention and care

Prevention Fasting and a fast-mimicking diets (FMD) have a demonstrated potential to reduce several important #cancer #risk factors. This is by improving the body’s metabolic profile, promoting the elimination of damaged cells, as well as stimulating the regeneration of tissues and organs (especially the immune system), as we discussed in more detail here.

Depending on individual situations, cycles of FMD are therefore a very promising practice to combine with a sound nutritional approach to reduce the risk of incidence and recurrence, and ultimately contributing to the creation of health-promoting body terrain – the protective cell microenvironment, as I like to call it.

Alongside treatment A wealth of preclinical studies over recent years has shown that when an organism undergoes 'starvation', its normal healthy cells respond by shifting into a highly protective non-growth mode that shields them from cell-killing agents (e.g. chemotherapy). Conversely, cancer cells are not able to trigger this protective response as effectively, and would continue their growing behaviour, which in fact is what makes them susceptible to treatment.

It’s now been confirmed (preclinical settings) that fasting (and fast-mimicking diets) not only weakens cancer cells and makes them more susceptible to the action of our own immune system, but it is also protective against the side effects of a wide range of chemotherapy drugs by helping preserve healthy cells in the body, and in so doing it also increases efficacy of standard therapies, as demonstrated in a variety of animal cancer models.

Bringing this breakthrough information into the #clinical settings to help actual patients is obviously not an easy process, but again the work of Dr Valter Longo and other teams around the world has done just that, and a number of preliminary studies of fasting or an adapted version of the FMD in combination with treatment have shown how reducing calories intake consistently helped protecting patients from multiple side effects of treatment (i.e. fatigue, weakness, and gastrointestinal issues), while at the same time being found safe to practice (under supervision). Find more details about the research and its current applications in cancer here.

It’s exciting to know that larger clinical trials are currently undergoing to confirm and expand these results. For now, caution must be used when thinking about fasting around treatment. There are specific recommendations that the experts have made at this stage for patients, oncologists, and healthcare practitioners who want to adopt FMD around treatment, and if you wish to find out more, these are discussed in Dr Longo’s articles and book ‘The Longevity Diet’, or otherwise feel free to get in touch with me and I’ll be happy to help.

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