Fasting can help with cancer therapy

Fasting can help with cancer therapy

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Short-term fasting can make chemotherapy more effective and improve quality of life / research results on the effects of fasting in cancer patients

Short-term fasting apparently improves the quality of life of women during chemotherapy and makes them better tolerated by the therapy. This is the result of a pilot study by a team of doctors in Berlin led by Stephan P. Bauersfeld and Professor Dr. med. Andreas Michalsen with 50 patients with breast or ovarian cancer. (BMC Cancer 2018, 18: 476).

The women started 36 hours before the start of chemotherapy and stopped fasting 24 hours after the end of chemotherapy, which consisted of six treatment cycles. During fasting, the patients were allowed to consume water, herbal tea, vegetable juice and vegetable broth with a maximum of 350 kilocalories (kcal) every day. According to the study, women tolerated short-term fasting well, the quality of life was less affected than in the comparison group without fasting. In addition, fatigue was reduced during the first week after chemotherapy.

A pilot study from Berlin had already concluded in 2015 that short-term fasting is safe and can reduce side effects on the blood picture. In the fasting women z. B. the red blood cells (erythrocytes) recovered faster. (de Groot S et al./BMC Cancer 2015). Following the positive results of the pilot study, a randomized follow-up study is currently underway "New diets accompanying chemotherapy for gynecological cancers".

Check fasting individually

In naturopathy, fasting has proven itself as a "therapeutic fast" in the sense of cleaning and detoxifying the body. It can also be useful as a switch to a healthy diet, especially for cancer patients. "Whether fasting is helpful for cancer depends on numerous factors," says Dr. György Irmey, Medical Director of the Society for Biological Cancer Defense e. V. (GfBK) in Heidelberg. GfBK advises against fasting if there is severe physical weakness or weight loss. "A fasting cure that lasts longer than four days requires professional support even for healthy people, especially for cancer patients."

Helpful interval fasting

Dr. Anette Jänsch, co-author of the Berlin study from 2018, considers interval fasting to be a useful addition to short-term fasting. There is a meal break of 14 to 16 hours, for example between dinner and breakfast. At the 19th GfBK patient-physician congress on May 18 and 19, 2019 in Heidelberg, the doctor will shed light on the topic of "fasting and healthy eating with stressful therapies". Researchers from San Diego had examined the effects of longer periods of fasting on 2413 breast cancer patients in the "Women's Healthy Eating and Living" study (Marinac CR et al./JAMA Oncol 2016). The result: In women who slept longer and were fasted for more than 13 hours, the risk of developing breast cancer again was reduced by 36 percent in the early stages.

Can short-term fasting shrink cancer tumors?

Fasting appears to make cancer cells more vulnerable. In animal experiments, a research team led by Prof. Valter Longo in Los Angeles showed that chemotherapy was more effective in mice if they did not eat anything two to three days beforehand (Lee C et al./Science Trans-lational Medicine 2012). The reason, according to Valter Longo, is "differential stress resistance". Healthy cells and tumor cells react differently to the lack of sugar with a longer calorie reduction. “According to evolution, a healthy body cell is set up for times of hunger and then slows down its cell division cycle. It switches to economy mode, so to speak, and is stress-resistant, ”says Dr. Annette Jansch. Tumor cells, on the other hand, react to sugar deficiency with stress and its more easily attacked by chemotherapy drugs.

Dr. Annette Jänsch gives two lectures at the 19th Patient-Doctor-Congress "Decide for yourself" (May 18, 2019):

1. "Fasting and new nutritional strategies during chemotherapy in patients with breast cancer", May 18, 2019, 4.45-5.30 p.m.

2. "Fasting and healthy eating with stressful therapies" May 19, 2019, 3:00 - 3:30 p.m.
Link to the congress website:

Author and source information

Video: Starving cancer away. Sophia Lunt. TEDxMSU (February 2023).