Short-term fasting reduces side-effects during chemotherapy

Short-term fasting reduces side-effects during chemotherapy

The first ever randomised clinical trial to explore the effects of short-term fasting (STF) during chemotherapy found beneficial effects on quality of life, fatigue and well-being and improved drug tolerance in breast and ovarian cancer patients.

Short-term fasting, or STF, is where the patient fasts for 36 hours at least before chemotherapy, then the day of the chemotherapy, and half a day afterwards. Previous research had shown that it protects healthy cells, resulting is reduced side-effects, while making cancer cells more vulnerable to the chemotherapy drugs, resulting in a greater tumour shrinkage (2).

This new study (1) set out to measure the improved quality of life in using fasting and showed it led to a better tolerance of chemotherapy, with a more stable quality of life, and reduced fatigue. 

The study split patients into 2, groups: A and B. Group A was fasted for the first half of chemotherapy cycles while group B fasted during the second half. It was noted that the beneficial effect of fasting on quality of life was more pronounced in group A compared to group B. The researchers explained that this could show that fasting is effective if it prevents negative effects before rather than after they occur.

The study authors concluded that the results call for larger scale trials to further evaluate and justify the use of STF as a recommended complementary therapy alongside chemotherapy. 
Go to: Fasting, calorie restriction and cancer

Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist and a founder of CANCERactive said, “We have been recommending that people having chemotherapy all on one day employ this three-and-one-half day plan for several years already and patients report to us that they ‘sail through chemotherapy’. It has its basis in Ayurvedic medicine. Fasting for 24 hours at least, sees hormones called sirtuins produced by the brain. These shut down healthy cells so they take in far less chemo, leaving more available to kill the cancer cells. It’s a win-win situation. Short term fasting is an important complementary therapy during chemotherapy.”

Go to: 10 ways to improve your chemotherapy results and reduce side-effects


  3. Lee C, Raffaghello L, Brandhorst S, Safdie FM, Bianchi G, Martin-Montalvo A, Pistoia V, Wei M, Hwang S, Merlino A, et al. Fasting cycles retard growth of tumors and sensitize a range of cancer cell types to chemotherapy. Sci Transl Med. 2012;4(124):124ra127.
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