Fasting or not eating food for a certain period of time has been prevalent in religious practices around the world. While usually people link fasting to weight loss, there is a certain style of fasting called intermittent fasting or fasting-mimicking diet which can reduce the risk of serious health conditions like cancer. Further, it can also help reverse symptoms of these diseases.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern with pre-determined cycles of eating and fasting. Most diet regimens talk about the foods that you should or should not eat. In intermittent fasting the focus lies on when you should or should not eat.
We all know that our body stores nutrients to protect us against starvation. When you fast, you release the stored nutrients to fuel the body. While the primary noticeable benefit is weight loss, fasting has multiple benefits for the human body.
Some popular intermittent fasting methods are:
This involves a daily eating period of 8 hours and fasting for 16 hours. For example, you can eat between 2-10 pm and fast from 10 pm in the night to 2 pm the next day.
This involves keeping a 24-hour fast once/twice a week.
This involves consuming only 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week. The remaining days, you can eat normally.
Intermittent Fasting and Cancer
There have been many animal-based studies which show a decrease in the risk of the onset of cancer or a fall in the cancer growth rates. This is due to the following effects of fasting:
- It is a known fact that obesity is a major cancer risk factor. In a study it was shown that in a time-restricted feeding during 9-12 hour phases, there was a reversal in the progression of obesity.
- In another study, a bi-monthly intermittent fasting regimen showed a decreased incidence of cancer in mice. The same scientists also conducted a pilot trial with 19 humans and found decreased biomarkers and risk factors for cancer.
- A research using the combination of chemotherapy and intermittent fasting showed a slowed progression of breast and skin cancer. It also highlighted that intermittent fasting made cells sensitive to chemotherapy, protected normal cells, and promoted stem-cell production.
- Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
- ZenOnco.io Integrative Oncology Cancer Care
- Written by Taylor Griffith. Medically reviewed by Christina Chun, MPH on October 16, 2017. Fasting and Cancer.
- Kris Gunnars, BSc. Intermittent Fasting 101 — The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide. Written on July 25, 2018.
- National Cancer Institute. Obesity and Cancer.
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