New Intermittent Fasting Program Shown to Suppress Cancer and Metabolic Disease in Mice and Humans

Reprinted with permission from World At Large, a news website of nature, science, health, politics, and travel. 

As scientists become more and more fascinated by the surprising health benefits of fasting, yet another intriguing new study emphasizes the importance of when we are eating, rather than what we are eating.

The study, published in Nature Proteomics, demonstrates how spending time in a fasted state has benefits that can outperform daily dietary allowances in terms of fighting cancer, and regulating lipid and glucose metabolism.

The research involves an examination of circadian biology, which is the study of our circadian clocks—the biological equipment attuned to the day/night cycles of the planet and how we respond to them.

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The study posits that a disruption of the rhythmic nature of circadian clocks, particularly the hepatic (the liver) clock, can lead to cancer and metabolic syndrome (a term for a variety of unsavory health outcomes arising from poor eating, sleeping, and exercise habits that can include, but are not limited to diabetes and obesity).

The researchers found that mouse studies demonstrated an increased rate of cancer and metabolic diseases in rodents when their circadian rhythms were disrupted. A fast of 14 hours, starting at sunset and ending at sunrise, has been repeatedly demonstrated to “reset” the clocks, allowing them to operate off the dysregulated rhythm of the “master clock”.

Even though rodents are nocturnal creatures and they do most of their activity at night, the authors imagined the effect of a similar 14-hour sundown to pre-sunrise fast would have the same benefit in humans even though we are a diurnal species (resting at night).

“… We hypothesized that intermittent fasting for several consecutive days without calorie restriction in humans would induce an anti-carcinogenic proteome (something like a cell’s protein profile) and the key regulatory proteins of glucose and lipid metabolism,” reads the study.

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Again, because the basis of the study are the data on mice fasting during their active period, the scientists thought it was only logical to make the human-trial participants fast during their active hours as well, since we are not creatures of the night.

14 healthy individuals including both men and women with an average age of 32, spent 30 days fasting from sunrise to sunset, beginning their day with a pre-dawn breakfast, and a twilight dinner.

In the scientist’s own words, their findings are significant, as their 30-day program resulted in “anticancer serum proteomic signature and upregulated key regulatory proteins of glucose and lipid metabolism, insulin signaling, circadian clock, DNA repair, cytoskeleton remodeling, immune system, and cognitive function, and resulted in a serum proteome protective against cancer, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, inflammation, Alzheimer’s disease, and several neuropsychiatric disorders.”

File photo by Jean Fortunet, CC

Significant findings

Time-restricted eating is not a new scientific dietary strategy. Dr. Sachin Panda, an expert in circadian biology, has been studying it for years, and has contributed mightily to the overall body of evidence showing its effectiveness.

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Normally however, Panda’s work, including some citizen-science crowd-sourced data, involves fasting in the evening, with some hours before sundown and some after sunrise also marked by fasting.

Contrary to this approach, the researchers have taken a Ramadan-like strategy, and the findings are significant. Not only did they find the proteomic signature they expected, they also achieved it in their participants without significant weight loss or any alterations of their diets.

Furthermore, they found significant increases in several proteins that are typically down-regulated in the presence of different cancers. For instance, levels of LATS1, a large tumor-suppressor kinase which has been demonstrated to suppress proliferation and invasion of several kinds of tumors, were increased 9-fold by the end of week 4.

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LATS1 is just a single example, and many different genes and proteins were either increased, or decreased, resulting in a positive effect for stopping, eliminating, or suppressing cancers of several kinds.

(Reprinted from World At Large)

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