Intermittent Fasting & Cancer: What Does the Research Say?
Fasting has been in practice for a long time, most of it religiously. But recently, some have begun using it for specific health benefits. For example, studies conducted over the year have shown that intermittent fasting can reduce the risk factors for cancer and other health conditions and reverse their symptoms.
Overview of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting means a “scheduled fasting” alternated with meal times. For instance, one may generally eat for most of the week but fasts for over 16 hours on Wednesdays and Fridays (thus eating for only 8 hours on those days). During periods of eating, no restrictions are placed on the amount of food that a person can eat or reduce the intake of calories.
Some intermittent fasting regimens involve total abstinence from food. However, there is no restriction on water intake. Other intermittent fasting regimens may allow the input of non-water beverages or food but in small amounts.
The human body is designed to accommodate periods of food scarcity.
You see, while this may seem uncommon in a present-day society where there’s plenty of food, the human body is designed to accommodate periods of food scarcity. Historically, fasting has been used as a survival technique during a famine, floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters that affect food supply.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are three subtypes of intermittent fasting. These include:
· Extended night-time fasting: This form of intermittent fasting is mainly applied in cancer cases. There is an extension of the period between dinner and breakfast in extended night-time fasting. There are indications that this may have been the “normal” diet that our ancestors ate in the past when food was a luxury compared to now. The 16/8 method is an excellent example of extended night-time fasting in which eating takes place between 12 noon and 8 pm (8 hours of unrestricted eating and 16 hours of fasting).
· Time-restricted feeding: It is similar to extended night-time fasting. It defines the eating times and the fasting period.
· Short-term fasting: Short-term fasting is of different varieties. There is alternate-day fasting and whole-day fasting. In the alternate day fasting, there are days where calories are eaten without restriction and days when calorie intake is limited to 25%. For the whole day of fasting, calorie intake occurs without limitation for five days each week, while taking in no calories or roughly 25% of calories daily for two days per week.
How Does Fasting Work?
The human body is fashioned so that it offers protection against starvation. In addition, it is designed to store some amount of nutrients required for survival.
When you are not eating as you should, the cells in your body will undergo some mild stress. During this time, your body releases the nutrient reserve to fuel up. Clinicians suggest that you may not experience any adverse effects as long as the body has enough time to recover after such a stressful ordeal.
Weight loss is one of the results of fasting. People lose weight during fasting because the body is expending more calories than gaining. However, prolonged fasting should be done cautiously. Continuous fasting will set your body in a “starvation mode,” where your body processes slow down in a bid to prolong your life. This usually begins after you’ve fasted for three days at a stretch. During the fast, your body will conserve as much fuel as possible without noticing the weight loss.
What Does the Research Say about Fasting and Cancer?
One benefit of intermittent fasting is weight loss. Of course, this is good news for a healthy adult. Recent studies involving animals and some preliminary human trials have shown that intermittent fasting decreases the risk of cancer or reduces cancer growth rates. According to these studies, the anti-cancer effects of intermittent fasting may be due to:
· Decreased production of blood glucose
· Regeneration of the immune system by stem cells
· Production of tumor-killing cells
· A balanced intake of nutrients
In a particular study of time-restricted feeding (9–12-hour phases), fasting impeded type 2 diabetes and obesity in mice. Obesity is a primary cancer risk factor, lending credence to the hypothesis that fasting treats cancer.
In a second rodent study, it was found that intermittent fasting is done bi-monthly to reduce the incidence of cancer. A pilot trial involving 19 humans showed similar results. Again, the risk factors and biomarkers for cancer were drastically reduced.
In 2016 showed that combining chemotherapy and fasting slowed skin cancer and breast cancer progression. In addition, integrating both treatment methods increased the production of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and normal lymphoid progenitor cells. Typical lymphoid progenitor cells are lymphocyte precursors, and lymphocytes are white cells that kill tumors.
Results from the same study found that short-term starvation increased the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy. However, normal cells were protected, while stem cell production was promoted.
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Disclaimer: Dr. Berner does not diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical diseases or conditions; instead, he analyzes and corrects the structure of his patients with Foundational Correction to improve their overall quality of life. He works with their physicians, who regulate their medications. This blog post is not designed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services to you or any other individual. The information provided in this post or through linkages to other sites is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, consultation, or the advice of your physician or another healthcare provider. Foundation Chiropractic and Dr. Brett Berner are not liable or responsible for any advice, the course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other information, services, or product you obtain through this video or others.