Fasting as an Effective Anti-Cancer Strategy: Inspiring Success Stories

Fasting has gained much popularity in recent years. In addition to its weight loss benefits, research has found that fasting also plays a role in cancer prevention and treatment.

In the two inspiring stories below a stage IV cancer patient achieved remarkable success in fighting and eliminating cancer through fasting, and a Japanese physician who followed a 16-hour fasting routine for 13 years is living cancer free.

Two Intermittent Fasting Success Stories

Dr. Eric Berg, a chiropractor, renowned health author, and internet personality, interviewed Guy Tenenbaum, a cancer patient, on his YouTube channel. Tenenbaum had previously been diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer, but since then his cancer has disappeared. Prior to the cancer diagnosis, Tenenbaum had been dealing with Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, bone and joint pain, inflammation, and weighed about 230 pounds (104 kilograms).

According to the interview, in August 2018, Tenenbaum went to the hospital due to left-side chest pain. During the examination, the doctors discovered a significantly elevated level of prostate-specific antigen in his blood, measuring 57, prompting an immediate biopsy.

Upon receiving the biopsy results, he sought consultations with a urologist and an oncologist. Regrettably, both doctors conveyed that it was too late and there was nothing they could do. The oncologist even told him that the cancer cells had already metastasized to the sternum, leaving Tenenbaum with an estimated lifespan of three months.

Determined to survive, Tenenbaum challenged the doctors’ prognosis and opted for an alternative approach, spending 18 hours a day conducting his own research. During his research, he came across the autophagy theory proposed by Nobel laureate, Yoshinori Ohsumi.

Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist, discovered that cells undergo a process called autophagy during fasting or starvation, where they consume themselves due to a lack of nutrients and energy supply, as a response to temporary survival pressure. Ohsumi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research findings on this phenomenon.

Autophagy is a cellular process that helps maintain homeostasis by recycling molecules and clearing damaged proteins and organelles. It has preventive effects on various diseases and also plays a vital role in cancer treatment.

While searching online for natural methods to fight cancer, Tenenbaum came across the story of a cancer patient who, after not eating for more than 25 days, passed away due to lack of nutrition, but the cancer cells in their body had disappeared. This inspired him to embark on his own fasting journey, persevering for a total of 45 days. Since then, he has been practicing intermittent fasting.

During his fasting period, Tenenbaum refrained from consuming regular food and limited his calorie intake. However, he made a conscious effort to supplement his diet with cancer-fighting nutrients. He incorporated green tea into his diet and consumed various spices like ginger, turmeric, and black pepper. He also included different forms of garlic, such as raw garlic, black garlic, garlic powder, and garlic capsules. “I don’t know which one was effective,” he said.

He took protein supplements for energy and included cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, lettuce, and asparagus in his meals. He allowed himself to eat a small piece of chicken once a week.

Japanese Doctor Achieved 13-Year Cancer Remission Through Intermittent Fasting

Atsushi Aoki, a renowned Japanese internist and director of a diabetes clinic, noticed a white patch on his tongue while brushing his teeth at the age of 40. Ten months later, he experienced pain while eating, leading to a diagnosis of stage 1 tongue cancer. He underwent surgery to remove a quarter of his left tongue.

“I couldn’t leave my children behind and die. I was determined to survive no matter what.” At the time, Aoki had two young children attending kindergarten, and his wife was pregnant with another child. To prevent cancer recurrence and the development of other cancers, he delved into extensive research on the subject. After conducting his research, he devised a 16-hour fasting method to induce cellular autophagy and eliminate cancer cells. Aoki has remained committed to intermittent fasting since 2009, and he has remained cancer-free ever since.

Many people may have concerns about whether they can endure prolonged hunger. Aoki explained that the intense feeling of hunger can be difficult to tolerate for the first few days. However, it gradually subsides after a few days, and once accustomed to it, individuals may notice heightened sensory perception and improved focus.

Aoki suggested incorporating sleep time into the fasting period. For example, one can have breakfast at 9 a.m., skip lunch, and have dinner before 5 p.m., ensuring a fasting period of 16 hours from dinner until breakfast the following day. One can also start with a 12-hour fasting period and gradually extend it to 16 hours if 16 is too challenging. In case of hunger during the fasting period, it is possible to alleviate it by consuming snacks like unsalted nuts, raw vegetables, cheese, or yogurt.

Clinical studies have found that prolonging the length of nightly fasting interval can help reduce risk of cancer recurrence. A study published in JAMA Oncology in 2016 revealed that among 2,413 women who had previously been diagnosed with breast cancer, those with less than 13 hours of fasting duration during the night were more likely to experience recurrence, with a 36 percent increased risk compared to those with fasting duration longer than 13 hours.

Longer nightly fasting duration was associated with lower levels of glycated hemoglobin and longer sleep duration, both of which contribute to a reduced risk of developing cancer.

Intermittent Fasting for Obese Cancer Patients

In August 2021, the American Cancer Society published a review in their journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, suggesting that overweight or obese cancer patients may consider intermittent fasting. Alongside intermittent fasting, they are advised to engage in regular physical activity and follow a healthy diet, which includes consuming plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Preliminary studies indicate that extended fasting in certain cancer patients appears to be safe and may have the potential to reduce chemotherapy-related side effects and tumor growth. However, the mechanisms and molecular pathways underlying intermittent fasting remain unanswered. The author suggests that further trials are required to fully understand the risks and benefits of fasting in cancer patients.

A Doctor’s Advice: Long-term Fasting Inadvisable for Frail Cancer Patients

Though there are reported successes, it is important to consider whether fasting is suitable for everyone as an anti-cancer approach. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners highlight the variations in individual constitution, emphasizing that prolonged fasting as an anti-cancer strategy may not be advisable for individuals with weak physical conditions.

During an interview with Epoch Times, Dr. Teng Cheng-Liang, the superintendent of Chi Teh Medical Clinic in Taiwan, highlighted the potential risks associated with prolonged fasting and the possibility of adverse effects if not approached with caution. He stressed the importance of patients having a strong and well-nourished body for long-term fasting as an anti-cancer approach. Conversely, he advised against it for patients who are nutritionally deficient and physically weak.

Teng further explained that the difference between cancer cells and healthy cells lies in their constant need for division and proliferation, which results in a higher demand for nutrients. By controlling nutrient intake, the growth of tumor cells can be managed, and in some instances, cancer cells can even be starved to death.

Teng highlighted that there are many different approaches to cancer treatment, emphasizing the importance of choosing a method that aligns with the individual’s specific needs. For individuals who require high-calorie and nutrient-rich foods, opting for a ketogenic diet as an anti-cancer approach may be a suitable choice.

A study published in Nature in 2020 showed that breast cancer patients receiving estrogen therapy can enhance treatment effectiveness and delay the development of drug resistance by following a fasting-mimicking ketogenic diet.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Fight Cancer?

Since the early 1900s, scientists have noticed the positive effects of diet control on the health of organisms. Research at the time had already shown that diet control can slow or even stop tumor growth in laboratory mice, as well as delay cancer recurrence. Scientists have conducted hundreds of studies on different types of organisms, including yeast, nematodes, fruit flies, mice, rhesus monkeys, and so forth. After animal trials, small-scale human experiments were carried out. Preliminary studies suggest that prolonged fasting is safe for certain cancer patients and may reduce chemotherapy-related toxicity and inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors.

1. The Anticarcinogenic Actions of Fasting

Fasting and a ketogenic diet can put a person into a state of ketone body metabolism. Cancer cells can only survive by metabolizing glucose and glutamine, and they can’t metabolize ketone bodies. Therefore, such regimens are equivalent to cutting off the food ration of cancer cells.

Fasting and caloric restriction can reduce the production of growth factors, inflammatory cytokines, and anabolic hormones. That prompts corresponding changes in the body’s metabolism and hormone levels, such as decreased insulin secretion, increased insulin sensitivity, and decreased testosterone and estrogen secretion.

Fasting and restricting calories can also reduce oxidative stress even as they enhance antioxidant effects, reduce free-radical-induced DNA damage, and activate various DNA repair processes. Experiments on cells have also demonstrated that fasting and restricting calories can enhance autophagy, a process in which the body recycles cellular “garbage” and removes damaged cell parts. Fasting can also inhibit cell proliferation and slow down cellular aging.

These well-studied mechanisms may help the body fight cancer—as many studies suggest.

An animal study at the University of Wisconsin showed that monkeys that ate 30 percent fewer calories had a 50 percent reduction in the incidence of sporadic cancer (the most common of which is gastrointestinal adenocarcinoma) compared to monkeys on an unrestricted diet.

study conducted by Johns Hopkins University with a median follow-up of 11 years found that intensive lifestyle intervention can reduce the risk of obesity-related cancers (including esophageal cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, gallbladder cancer, thyroid cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, postmenopausal breast cancer, and multiple myeloma) by 16 percent. The researchers believe that this is due to the lifestyle intervention that led to the weight loss of the subjects.

joint study conducted by scientists in the United States and France found that a fasting diet combined with vitamin C can treat certain types of cancer more effectively.

2. Fasting Can Enhance Chemotherapy, Reduce Side Effects

Clinical research on fasting in cancer patients is still in its infancy. However, growing evidence shows that short-term fasting can reduce the toxicity of chemotherapy while enhancing the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents, thereby improving the quality of life of cancer patients. This is because fasting increases the stress resistance of healthy cells, while tumor cells become more sensitive to chemotherapeutic agents due to a shortage of nutrients.

Animal experiments have shown that fasting combined with chemotherapy has the best anti-cancer effect. (The Epoch Times)

Animal experiments have shown that the inhibitory effect of fasting on tumors is comparable to that of chemotherapy; the combination of fasting and chemotherapy achieved the best anticancer effect and the most significant reduction in tumor volume. Moreover, such an approach produced the highest level of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes. The experiments demonstrated that fasting also stimulated the production of common lymphoid progenitor cells.

A small-scale clinical trial showed that short-term fasting reduces hematological toxicity in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy compared to the control group. The red blood cell and platelet counts increased significantly after chemotherapy, while the markers reflecting DNA damage increased relatively little, indicating that fasting may reduce the DNA damage caused by chemotherapy and promote its recovery.

A study involving 20 patients with various tumor types (mainly breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer) showed that compared with patients who fasted for 24 hours before chemotherapy, patients who fasted for longer periods (48 hours and 72 hours) had reduced rates of neutropenia and neuropathy, in addition to fewer increases in markers of DNA damage.

Another trial involving more than 30 gynecologic cancer patients showed chemotherapy patients who fasted experienced fewer headaches, weakness, and stomatitis. They also had significantly lower chemotherapy toxicity scores and fewer chemotherapy postponements. Additionally, patients who fasted had improved quality of life and reduced fatigue after chemotherapy compared to those on a normal-calorie diet.

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