An article published on February 8, 2012 in Science Translational Medicine, one of the Science family of journals, reveals the discovery of a significant reduction in the growth of cancerous tumors subjected to short cycles of fasting. The regimen was found to improve the effect of chemotherapy but also worked well without drug treatment.
“A limited time of exposure to a severely restricted diet (short-term starvation or fasting) can protect yeast, mammalian cells, mice, and possibly patients from the toxic effects of oxidative and chemotherapeutic agents without causing chronic weight loss,” wrote University of Southern California professor of gerontology and biological sciences Valter D. Longo, PhD and his colleagues in their introduction to the article.
In studies with live mice, animals that had access to only water for 48 to 60 hours experienced benefits in some cases that were comparable to chemotherapy, however, the greatest benefits were observed in animals that underwent both chemotherapy and fasting. In two experiments, approximately 25 and 42 percent of fasted animals that received chemotherapy achieved long term survival, in contrast with zero chemotherapy-treated animals that consumed a normal diet.
“A way to beat cancer cells may not be to try to find drugs that kill them specifically but to confuse them by generating extreme environments, such as fasting that only normal cells can quickly respond to,” he added.