The significant gains in cancer research have led to jumps in survival rates across the globe. But, while advances have come a long way, the absence of a cure means prevention is key. Growing evidence suggests a healthy diet could throttle the growth of cancer. A separate line of research, however, implies that taking prolonged pauses between meals could go a long way to avert the risk of disease.
The Osher Centre for Integrative Health (OCIH), suggests that alternate-day fasting could yield positive results for those looking to lower their cancer risk.
The Institution outlines some of the key differences between intermittent fasting and calorie restriction, adding that both approaches reduced tumour incidence by 40 to 80 percent in a number of models, but the effects were most evident using alternate day intermittent fasting.
While calorie restriction may be desirable for people who are overweight, those at a healthy weight or those that are already at a marginal weight risk of becoming underweight and malnourished, explains the health body.
Intermittent fasting can take many forms, but it generally involves prolonged periods of abstinence from food, at regular intervals.
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It adds: “Another option then for calorie restriction could be intermittent calorie restriction or intermittent fasting, which may actually be more protective and less concerning for weight loss.
“It may result in greater decreases in fat storage, IGF-1, and cell proliferation while increasing insulin sensitivity and adiponectin levels.
“These results come from the earliest studies of spontaneous mammary tumours models on rodents, which compared fasting on alternate days versus fasting for two to three day periods, each week.”
The Institution explains that fasting triggers changes linked to cellular protections that protect against weight loss and oxidative stress – a hallmark of the disease.
Fasting also induces a significant drop in insulin levels, and increases insulin sensitivity, both in a shorter space of time than calorie restriction.
What’s more, it’s been hypothesised that cancerous cells do not respond to the signalling generated by fasting, which makes them more vulnerable to the immune system and cancer treatment.
“This process is known as differential stress resistance,” explains OCIH.
One 2014 study conducted by Doctor Longo and his team, established that a three-day fast may help conceive strong immunity.
What’s more, they found that a 48-hour fast could slow the growth and spread of five out of the eight cancer studies.
It should however be noted that the study was conducted on animals, so further research is needed to determine if the results are replicable in humans.
Several other studies, however, conducted experiments of a similar nature on humans.
A 2007 study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, established that alternate-day fasting reduced blood levels of glucose, insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1.
With this came a significant drop in the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer.These findings were recently echoed in a JAMA study, titled Prolonged Nightly Fasting and Breast Cancer Prognosis.
Here, researchers noted that 13-hours of fasting overnight resulted in a 36 percent reduction in the risk of recurrence in breast cancer.
Participants also saw a 21 percent reduction in their risk of dying from breast cancer.
Experts at OCIH point out that alternate-day intermittent fasting may not be appropriate for all individuals, however, particularly those who are underweight or unwell.
The practice should therefore never be undertaken without the supervision of a health practitioner.