Cancer patients on chemotherapy can reduce the worst effects of the drug by fasting. A two-day fast before treatment can also protect healthy cells, a new study has discovered.
Earlier studies had also extolled the virtues of fasting, and had demonstrated that it can have beneficial effects on ageing.
In the latest study, researchers found that the mice given a high dose of chemotherapy after a fast thrived while half the mice that didn't fast died. The rest that hadn't fasted suffered permanent weight loss.
The research team is confident that similar results would be seen in humans, too. Laboratory studies of healthy brain cells and cancerous brain cells found that those given low levels of glucose - designed to replicate the effects of fasting - were resistant to chemotherapy.
They surmise that starved cells enter a period of hibernation, while cancer cells don't stop growing and so remain susceptible to chemotherapy.
(Source: Proceedings of the National Academies of Science USA. Published online: 10.1073/pnas.0708100105).