There has been a tremendous amount of research done on aging and longevity. It is been long known that caloric restriction has a positive effect on longevity. However one of the latest discoveries is that fasting could actually dramatically reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, alzheimer's disease and cardiovascular disease. The evidence is showing that short term caloric restriction (2-4 days) has multiple favourable effects on our physiology. When it comes to cancer a number of studies have shown that fasting improves the effectiveness of chemo therapy and radiation. It seem like this effect is linked to caloric restriction reducing IGF-1, a growth hormone secreted by our body to promote cell multiplication. In fasting, IGF-1 goes down and instead of growing, cells focus on repairing and re-building themselves. This offers a protective effect to healthy cells and may inhibit the spread and growth of cancer cells. Interestingly, high protein intake is one of the most potent stimulators of IGF-1 production in the liver. Many of the most popular "healthy" diets are plant-based and low in processed foods. Specific anti-cancer diets like the ones outlined in the China Study by Dr Colin T Campbell and the Gerson diet are low protein, vegetarian diets. These diets tend to be lower in calories and animal meats but higher in nutrients so they inherently will decrease IGF-1 production. It seems like the bottom line is that eating less calories, especially animal meats and refined sugars, will have a positive effect on any disease process.
If you think fasting for 3 days is to difficult, intermittent fasting is another option where you eat normally for 5 days and then eat 600cal for 2 days/week. Preliminary evidence shows that this approach harnesses the beneficial effects of fasting without the extended restrictive periods. I recommend that you see a a health care practitioner before you try fasting since there are some cases it may not be right for you and could be harmful. If you have cancer, then you should have a consult with a ND that has experience in this field.
Watch this video for a great overview
Longo and Fontana. Calorie restriction and cancer prevention: metabolic and molecular mechanisms Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2010 February ; 31(2): 89–98. doi:10.1016/j.tips.2009.11.004
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