Can FASTING improve Chemotherapy Results? By Ralph W. Moss, PhD.
Fasting is prescribed in the Bible and is considered a path to physical and spiritual purity. There are books, articles and Web sites that advocate fasting, some of them even for cancer patients. But many oncologists understandably become alarmed when their patients suggest fasting. After all, cancer is a disease sometimes characterized by unintended weight loss (cachexia). Doctors may feel that fasting will only worsen the situation. But what is the actual science of fasting and its relationship to cancer treatment?
Recently Dr. Valter D. Longo, Fernando M. Safdie and colleagues at the University of Southern California (USC) Andrus Gerontology Center and Department of Biological Sciences, have shown that a 48-hour fast protects normal cells and mice, but not cancer cells, against high-dose chemotherapy.
They also described 10 patients who voluntarily fasted prior to and/or following chemotherapy. None of these reported side effects caused by fasting other than lightheadedness and, of course, hunger. However, most patients reported less fatigue, weakness or gastrointestinal side effects from chemotherapy if they also fasted before and/or after receiving the drugs.
Nor did fasting decrease the effectiveness of the chemotherapy. These USC scientists therefore suggest that fasting, in combination with chemo, is “feasible, safe, and has the potential to ameliorate side effects.” They also recommend consulting one’s physician before undertaking a fast, and I totally agree. There are certainly individuals with cancer who should not fast. But fasting should be feasible for other patients, is cost-free and, at least in this preliminary report, effective at reducing the side effects of chemotherapy.