No, I’m not advocating that you eat McDonald’s or Taco Bell to kill cancer more effectively (in fact, you’d be fueling it, but that’s another topic). I mean, if you eat a specially formulated plant-based diet that mimics fasting inside your cells, ground-breaking research shows that you will maximize the results of chemotherapy while possibly reducing side effects.
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In an article released yesterday, a new study reports that consuming a Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) called Xentigen™ three days prior to, and on the day of chemotherapy (four days total) leads to dramatically more effective cancer cell death, while at the same time, might shield your healthy cells from some of chemo’s caustic damage (think: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, nerve damage, fatigue). This is the first randomized human trial of its kind.
129 stages II/III HER2 negative breast cancer patients in the Netherlands were randomized to “chemo plus FMD” (65 women) versus a “just chemo” group who continued their regular diet (64 women). Researchers found that the FMD enhanced shrinkage of the cancers, reporting up to a 90-100% tumor cell loss (i.e., near or total disappearance of the cancer cells), 3-4x higher than that of chemo alone when adhered to for every treatment cycle. The more cycles patients used FMDs, the higher percentage of tumor cell loss that occurred. 33% successfully fasted each cycle, while the remaining participants cited dislike of the food taste as the main reason for noncompliance. The control group was 2.5x more likely to show no change or progression of the initial cancer. Importantly, DNA damage in T-lymphocytes (immune system cells) was less in patients who received the FMD.
The Fasting Mimicking Diet resulted from decades of pioneering work and research on longevity by Dr. Valter Longo and his team at the University of Southern California. L-Nutra, the makers of Xentigen, has been developing one-of-a-kind products resulting from these findings, including ProLon, the original 5-day Fasting Mimicking Diet, and Fast Bar, a healthy FMD snack to help prolong daily intermittent fasting.
Dr. Longo’s extensive research was supported with millions in NIH funding and found that when you consume around 800 calories a day from predominantly healthy plant-based fats, you don’t secrete insulin or wake up protein-sensing pathways that turn off the fasting mode. Why is this important to a woman undergoing chemotherapy? When there’s no food or insulin around, it’s time to conserve energy. Healthy cells get this message loud and clear, so fasting makes the healthy cells switch to maintenance mode. Malignant cells, however, grow without control and don’t listen to your body’s signals, so cancer does not respond to food scarcity by quieting down. Well, that’s lucky, and here is why.
Chemotherapy agents don’t aim at a target or receptor; they just fly around your bloodstream trying to destroy cells that move quickly. Since chemo doesn’t know the difference between fast-moving cancer cells and high-turnover normal cells, collateral damage occurs to all the normal cells that move fast. Hair follicles? Bald. Fingernails? Brittle. GI tract? Barf. But now for the great part: when you receive chemo in a fasted state, it should sail past all those quiet healthy cells and focus on annihilating the busy cancer cells instead. This concept also proved quite true in mice, with cancers disappearing completely from their tissues up to 90% of the time when the mice fasted. We call this a pathologic complete response, “pCR” – meaning, there are zero cancer cells seen in the area after the cancer is removed and analyzed under the microscope as a result of the treatments received. A handful of small clinical studies in humans have also evaluated the potential of fasting to improve cancer treatment and shown positive results.
While the results of this trial are extremely encouraging, additional studies with larger participation and more patients adhering to the fasting part of the study are required before FMD with chemo becomes a mainstream recommendation. The Fasting Mimicking Diet provides a number of other health benefits, whether you have cancer or not, and allows similar advantages to water fasting without the nutrient deprivation and unwelcome “hangry” feelings that water fasting causes.
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Follow Power Up
- Raffaghello, L. et al. Starvation-dependent differential stress resistance protects normal but not cancer cells against high-dose chemotherapy. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105, 8215–8220 (2008).
- Lee, C. et al. Fasting cycles retard growth of tumors and sensitize a range of cancer cell types to chemotherapy. Sci. Transl. Med. 4, 124ra127 (2012).
- de Groot, S. et al. The effects of short-term fasting on tolerance to (neo) adjuvant chemotherapy in HER2-negative breast cancer patients: a randomized pilot study. BMC Cancer15, 652 (2015).
- Dorff, T. B. et al. Safety and feasibility of fasting in combination with platinum-based chemotherapy. BMC Cancer 16, 360 (2016).
- Safdie, F. M. et al. Fasting and cancer treatment in humans: a case series report. Aging 1, 988–1007 (2009).
- Bauersfeld, S. P. et al. The effects of short-term fasting on quality of life and tolerance to chemotherapy in patients with breast and ovarian cancer: a randomized cross-over pilot study. BMC Cancer 18, 476 (2018).