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Starving cancer by cutting off its favorite foods (acsh.org)
208 points by EndXA 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 146 comments

Cancer favoring glucose has been known for a very long time, this is called the Warburg Effect:


Interesting new pharmacology for sure, but the end of the article is critical here:

"Additionally, an accompanying commentary by William Katt and colleagues indicated that there are no FDA-approved drugs that target glucose and glutamine metabolism. This is because previous drug candidates proved to be too toxic for use in humans."

It's really hard to go after glucose because it's kind of everywhere. If there's a way to target this compound more specifically, maybe it could be useful. As it stands now, it's very very far from being a viable drug (and it doesn't sound like the authors claim otherwise). Cool science though.

This is how they detect cancer with a PET scan. They pump some radioactive glucose into your veins first. Tumors absorb it quicker than normal tissue, so they glow brighter on the PET scan.

I worked on this for multiple myeloma. DCA is nice but the concentrations you need for treating people gives them peripheral neuropathy, which isn’t trivial. But fwiw combining DCA with other drugs looks promising.

The issue is that cancer is polyclonal so there is a sub-population that predominantly relies of aerobic glycolysis, but the sub-populations that mostly metabolise glutamine or fatty acids will escape treatment... so you need a bit of a shotgun approach, in combination with traditional anti-cancer agents.

That makes sense. I think most people underappreciate how polyclonal cancer is. Every tumor isn't one cell, it's dozens or hundreds of different types of cell, which makes it extremely hard to cover all the possible escape paths for the cancer overall. As you mention, going with a shotgun approach of different drugs can help, but that's when toxicity becomes a real problem. It's not always possible to just give 2 drugs because one is so toxic on its own so you might kill the patient. One of the theories I've heard about why we've made relatively more progress on cancers in children is that they "heal" better, which means they can actually tolerate higher doses for some of these drugs.

That sounds like fascinating research. Besides chemotoxic agents, do you know what other compounds are being experimented with, in combination with DCA?

A couple of interesting publications on Glioblastoma treatment that might be pointing in the right direction for targeting glucose and glutamine starting with mouse models: https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-019-0455-x and progressing to human case study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29651419

> your body closely regulates the level of glucose in your blood. Your brain would literally starve without it.

Is this actually true? Having done the ketogenic diet and bringing carbohydrates down to almost nothing, my brain definitely didn't starve. In fact, running on ketones was amazing.

> Is this actually true?

It kinda depends on what exactly they mean. Is it true that if you had zero glucose available in your bloodstream at all your brain would be unable to function? Yes. Is it true that if nothing you ate contained any glucose your brain would starve? No. There's a process called gluconeogenesis which produces more than enough glucose for your brain to function no matter how few carbs you eat.

The amount of carbohydrates you need in your diet to survive is exactly zero. They’re a non-essential macronutrient.

The amount of glucose you need in your blood stream to keep everything running smoothly is a very small amount easily produced by your body through a process called gluconeogenesis.

I went 60 days sans any calories and my body self regulated glucose just fine.

I went 21 days with just water and electrolytes. My son is a type 1 diabetic so I had access to a glucose meter to test myself with. My blood glucose level at about the halfway mark was 59mg/dL (for reference, most non-diabetics should be between 70-130.)

I won't say fasting for 21 days was the most pleasant experience, but it is entirely doable by the average healthy person. Nice job going 60 days. The hardest part for me was the social aspect, family/friends' repeated concerns because I'm 'starving myself', sitting at the dinner table while everyone else eats, etc.

Do you mind sharing some of the side-effects you experienced as well as your goal overall for the 21 day fast? Mostly curious about weight/mass loss numbers but also any adverse bodily reactions.

For the first 2-3 days I was hungry - after that I was fine.

For the remainder:

I felt tired, cranky, cold (especially at night), and on occasion I would have trouble getting to sleep. My inflammation was markedly decreased. I have dermatographia (skin writing) where I can use my fingernail to draw a line on my arm (for example) and within a couple of minutes it will swell up like an allergic reaction. After about 5 minutes it goes away. I tried doing this halfway into my fast and while the inflammation was still there, it was much much much less noticeable (and not puffed up.)

As far as overall goal, aside from losing some weight was trying to reset my immune system which has been out of sorts for the past couple of years. I've been through a battery of tests to figure out why I've been feeling less than normal (brain fog, neuropathy, etc.) for the past 2-3 years and I was hoping it would help. Alas it did not. I lost 31lb and gained about half of it back after a couple of months. I wasn't following any particular diet after the fast, particularly because when I experience these bouts of brain fog/malaise, I don't feel motivated to stay on track.

I've started walking 5-7 miles a day and exercising over the past couple of months and have noticed some improvement. I did a 3 day water fast a few weeks ago, who knows if that was a factor. I'm maybe 85% of the old me, which is a massive improvement from where I was coming from. Hopefully things continue to improve (or simply doesn't get worse.)

I only got glucose/ketone strips around day 35 of the 60. Lowest I recorded was around 50mg/dL, highest was 110mg/dL, with the average being around 75mg/dL or so.

Ketones were always at or near the limit the meter is designed to test for. I think anything over 8.0 mmol/L and it would yell at me to see a doctor. Lowest I recorded was 7.0, and almost every reading was over 8.0. Felt fine the whole time.

Echo what you said about the hardest part being social though.

Eliminating carbohydrates from your diet means eliminating vegetables from your diet. I'm highly skeptical of the claim that any such diet can ever be healthy in the medium to long term. I fail to see how malnourishment isn't a certainty under such circumstances.

The fact that humans can fast for weeks or months isn't evidence in favor of:

> The amount of carbohydrates you need in your diet to survive is exactly zero.

You can go from a normal Western diet to eating nothing but lean and fatty meat for a year with no ill effects.


> Two normal men volunteered to live solely on meat for one year, which gave us an unusual opportunity of studying the effects of this diet. The term “meat,” as used by us, included both the lean and the fat portions of animals. The subjects derived most of their calories from fat and the diet was quite different from what one, who uses the term “meat” as including chiefly lean muscle, would expect.


> 11. In these trained subjects, the clinical observations and laboratory studies gave no evidence that any ill effects had occurred from the prolonged use of the exclusive meat diet.

People in the Arctic circle like the Inuit always lived almost entirely off of meat and Mongolians and other steppe pastoralists come very close, adding dairy.

This is a one hundred year old study which literally states on the first page:

> These studies were supported in part by a research grant from the Institute of American Meat Packers.

Inuit populations suffering lower incidence of heart disease is a myth.


> The mortality from all cardiovascular diseases combined is not lower among the Inuit than in white comparison populations. If the mortality from IHD is low, it seems not to be associated with a low prevalence of general atherosclerosis. A decreasing trend in mortality from IHD in Inuit populations undergoing rapid westernization supports the need for a critical rethinking of cardiovascular epidemiology among the Inuit and the role of a marine diet in this population.


> Most studies found that the Greenland Eskimos and the Canadian and Alaskan Inuit have CAD as often as the non-Eskimo populations. Notably, Bang and Dyerberg's studies from the 1970s did not investigate the prevalence of CAD in this population; however, their reports are still routinely cited as evidence for the cardioprotective effect of the "Eskimo diet."

They don't have lower incidence of ischemic heart disease than white westerners, they don't have lower levels of atherosclerosis, and these have actually improved as their diets have become more western and less traditional.

> I'm highly skeptical of the claim that any such diet can ever be healthy in the medium to long term. I fail to see how malnourishment isn't a certainty under such circumstances.

No malnourishment in the linked study or in Inuit populations.

> Inuit populations suffering lower incidence of heart disease is a myth.

I never claimed they did. I was responding to your claim that you don’t see how a long term all meat diet can be healthy and that malnourishment is certain with an all meat diet. If the Inuit incidence of cardiovascular disease is not lower I presume it’s also not higher or it’d have been mentioned.

The claim was not that an all meat diet was healthier, but that it was roughly as healthy. If their incidence ischemic heart disease and atherosclerosis is no lower than white westerners but they don’t get diabetes because they don’t eat carbs that’s (incredibly weak) evidence of health benefits.

Again, I’m not saying the diet is healthier, I’m showing evidence that it is healthy in the long run and that malnourishment is not a certainty.

Vitamin and other supplements could probably close the gap? Vegans do this when they lack certain vitamins largely/only present in animal products and I don't see why the opposite can't be true.

It's not a gap, it's an absence, and the deficiencies incurred by eating zero fruits and vegetables are not analogous to a b-12 deficiency (which most meat eaters also suffer, just to a lesser extent than vegans). These deficiencies aren't going to be made up for in pill form. Not to mention consuming no fruits and vegetables means you are essentially on a very low fiber diet, which has huge health implications on its own and is probably a bad idea.

This is a lot of work to go to in order to hang on to a pet diet that is shown to cause arterial injury and doesn't lead to greater weight loss than less harmful diets.

You went 60 days without eating?

Yep. Lost 80 lbs in 2 months. Got a few e-mails about this comment already so I'm throwing together a quick summary of what I did, results, and logs I took during the fast. Learned a lot since that fast though, it was over two years ago at this point.

Eating is definitely optional if you have the body fat.

For a second there, I thought you were this body builder:


Hi could you post the summary here too

I just found out that the record is 382 days.


Breatharianism, however, is a fraud. Example being Jasmuheen [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jasmuheen

I think it was a typo and he meant 60 days without carbohydrates.

A 60 day fast with no calories is far from impossible. I see no reason to think he made a typo.

No, 60 days, first 30 water/salt only, second 30 I added in a few supplements, nothing that could really count as calorie intake though.

I also adhered to a strict no coffee/tea policy.

In the other thread you mentioned strict "no flavored anything". Can you elaborate why not?

In my case I tend to feel less hungry after drinking lots of flavored water (e.g., lemon juice or flavored electrolyte powder [1]), but I haven't yet done long fasting. I want to try soon.

Also, have you noticed any cognitive decline when you were fasting for weeks? Difficulty concentrating, memory loss, lightheadedness, mood, ability to interact with people?

[1] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01IIGVUQA

Some unflavored sweeteners have been shown to produce mild insulin responses. For me it was more of a psychological thing, especially on a fast that long.

And no, no cognitive decline whatsoever. If anything I had more energy. Also, I was supplementing electrolytes, and I ended my fast at like 25% bodyfat though, so keep that in mind.

not that dude but if you drink sweetened or flavoured waters it produces an insulin response so your body really doesn't enter 'fasting' the same way.

water, black coffee, and salt do not produce this reaction.

Maybe he ate nothing but protein? I don’t even know...

I looked at his comment history and found 37 weeks ago that he says he only drank water and salt the first 30 days and added supplements the last 30 so I'm pretty sure he meant no calories. I also don't think that is a world record by any means. I found this site where someone they cite a 1972 NIH study of someone who fasted for 382 days but evidently I can't paste in this android client. Hunger strikes have definitely gone on for longer than 60 days. Water is essential but the body can subsist for a lot longer without food.

How did you kickstart the fast? I find the first 4-5 days are pretty tough. At what point did it become easy?

Were you working during this period or off work? Sometimes starting the fast is troublesome when one knows there's going to be energy level issues.

I like the idea of avoiding coffee/tea, that's something I think could help in the long run.

What was fasting for 60 days like? Any negative experiences?

One negative experience, slight hair loss that started approximately 6 to 8 weeks post fast. Maybe 10 to 15% of the hair on my head fell out in total, but it all grew back.

One other negative experience but that was due to my own stupidity and I've since learned better.

Basically if you're above 15% bodyfat, you only need two things to live. Water and electrolytes.

If anyone has any questions, more than happy to answer e-mails.

Any liver issues? Did you have any steatosis/fatty liver before? Clear that up at all?

None that I was aware of, though at my weight I'm sure there could have been.

Kinda kicking myself for not getting a good set of blood tests for the 'before' results.

Hey man just wanted to say you inspired me to give fasting a try. Not going to go crazy, don't worry, just shooting for two or three days depending on how it goes (just hit 24 hrs). I'm doing lots of research and have my annual check up in a couple weeks to talk to my doc about a longer one.

Thanks for sharing your story!

What was the other thing?

Same thing that gets everyone on a fast, too much water, not enough electrolytes.

Essentially got really really bad cramps in my legs each morning towards the end of the first 30 days. Fixed itself as soon as I added in the magnesium and potassium supplements. Likely caused because I drank too much water during the early parts of the fast.

Interesting! So salt, Magnesium, and potassium only. I want to try fasting for a week or so. Is there a specific type of these supplements you recommend?

Does hunger count as a negative experience?

After the first two weeks, it was a mild background noise. I never even felt ravenous or anything, just 'Eh, it'd be nice to eat again'. Even at the end I felt like I could have gone another 30 days easily. Which, given that I ended my fast at around 25% bodyfat, I probably could have.

What did you finally eat to beak your fast?

Uhh, I have a log of that somewhere one second...

This is day 61, I'd estimate like 4k-ish calories.

  07:51 - Woke to Alarm
  08:34 - Weight 199.8 - Bodyfat 26.1
  08:41 - Start First Meal - Handful of Spinach Wilted in 2 tbsp Butter - 5 Olives - 1 Dill Pickle Spear - 6 oz Pickle Juice
  08:45 - End First Meal
  08:50 - Drank 1/2 Liter Water
  08:57 - Start Sauna 165.0 F
  09:00 - Drank 1 Liter Water
  09:12 - End Sauna 182.5 F
  09:15 - Shower
  10:23 - Finished 2nd Breakfast - Single Egg omelette, cheese, olive oil, more spinach wilted in butter and 3 pickle spears.
  11:35 - Lunch /w Dave - Bunless Burger, Bacon, Cheese, Fried mushrooms, Onions, Pickles and a Fried Egg on top. Salad with blue cheese dressing.
  12:18 - 16 oz nitro cold brew
  13:25 - 32 oz San Peligrino Unflavored Zero-Cal
  16:23 - 5 Guys Bacon Cheeseburger - 2 Patties - Bacon - Mushroom - Lettuce Wrap - Mayo - Side of Mayo
  18:09 - 9 olives - 3 Servings
  19:23 - 9 Jimmy Dean Sausage Links dipped in 6oz Chunky Blue Cheese dressing.

You fasted for 60 days and the first thing you ate to break your fast was... spinach? You have next-level willpower.

Why? Spinach isn’t even close to as bad as people like to make it out to be. For me it ranges from a nice lettuce replacement to something that doesn’t really alter the flavour of what it’s mixed with. Sure, if you cook it with stuff it turns all mushy, so I guess most people actually don’t like the texture more than the flavour itself.

I suspect that after 60 days fasting you can only stomach light things like greens until your stomach expands a bit.

How are you typically making your log? shell script?

Did your stomach not get upset with you the following day?

Most people break their fast with something really easy to digest like pickle juice etc.

The very next sentence in the article answers your question, doesn't it?

> "If you do not consume enough carbohydrates in your diet, your body will synthesize the glucose you need."

It's addressed here:

>If you do not consume enough carbohydrates in your diet, your body will synthesize the glucose you need.

In the diet you describe the body would preferentially reserve all glucose for the brain and run the rest on ketones. The body can manufacture glucose when needed from other energy sources but it’s an energy intensive biochemical process and not ideal for efficient use of available nutrients.

  the body would preferentially reserve all glucose for the brain
No, because the brain can use ketone bodies as fuel. Some other organs (such as the heart) cannot.

Always happy to find out new understandings of physiology and biochemistry so I dove back into some research this morning after seeing your comment.

The brain does use ketones in starvation sitautions, but it always needs to use some glucose, so over time the available glucose ends up redirected there.

From what I can find it appears that the heart does utilize ketone bodies for fuel, contrary to what you are asserting. There is correlation to heart failure, possibly from stress in utilizing an energy source with less efficient bioavailability.

For simplicity here's the wiki link as a summary https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketone_bodies

I'd love to see the research that shows your point in more detail.

We are down to anecdotal evidences here. So as another anecdote, a guy I know went on a carb-free diet and developed diabetes as a result. His body lost the ability to process sugar. Bottom line, most people needs a balanced diet - including carbs that are one of the pillars of nutrition. A given individual's body may be able to compensate for the imbalance on its own, but let's not generalize that to the entire population.

this makes no sense biochemically.

your hypothesis seems to be that a lack of carbohydrates (read: sugar) caused an individual to develop diabetes, but "diabetes" generalizes down to:

- the body (pancreas) does not produced insulin at all (type I)

- the body's cells are resistant to the produced insulin (type II)

we should be able to basically rule out type II because there should have largely been no insulin produced by this individual (glucagon would take priority due to low blood sugar), so insulin resistance seems super unlikely. and type I has a mix of factors but they are largely all autoimmune, where various pancreatic cells are destroyed by the body itself, causes generally unknown.

"losing the ability to process sugar" seems really sketchy, because those are all critical cellular processes that don't just go away. i realize you're probably not biologically trained but that statement doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

so which form of diabetes did this individual get diagnosed with?

> "losing the ability to process sugar" seems really sketchy, because those are all critical cellular processes that don't just go away.

I have no idea as to the validity of this anecdote but the idea isn't unprecedented. For example, correcting an iodine deficiency can cause the same thyroid issues that a deficiency can cause.

The main difference there is that processing sugar is absolutely vital to the functioning of a cell. If you'd actually lose the ability to process sugar there is no amount of insulin that will save you from death.

> carbs that are one of the pillars of nutrition

They're simply not, the body can manufacture all the glucose it needs.

The ketogenic diet is glucose sparing, that is your insulin levels are dramatically lowered since the very small amount of glucose you're eating should go to the tissues that require it, not into your fat cells.

So if you're on a ketogenic diet and then eat a lot of glucose, your body takes a little while to ramp back up insulin. That's not the same thing as insulin resistance or impaired insulin production in diabetics.

How do we know he wouldn't have developed diabetes anyway?

It was in the next line:

Your brain would literally starve without it. If you do not consume enough carbohydrates in your diet, your body will synthesize the glucose you need.

So then you don’t need to eat any carbohydrates at all? I’m really confused by the statement. You’ll never starve your brain by not eating carbs.

Your brain would starve without glucose, but your body can produce the glucose your brain needs, so it’s not something that would ever happen. But the statement is still technically correct.

That's correct.

Your brain needs glucose. When you are on keto, your body produces glucose for your brain.

No. All the excess protein you likely consumed has actually increased your risk of cancer significantly.

This statement isn't supported by any real evidence. In fact, a lot of actual research supports the idea of keto for improving outcomes in some types of cancer.

Ketogenic diets limit protein too, since your body can process protein and turn it into glucose. I don't know what you're talking about when you say excess given its a high fat, low protein, and very low carbohydrate diet.

Strawman logic. You might find some sources that say this but people involved in the science don’t argue this point at all.

Maybe other people did keto differently than me, but my protein stayed exactly the same. I just switched carbs with fat.


When did Youtube videos started to be reference source ? I can't find any academic references on her work despite her putting "Ph.D" title after her name on every plateform existing.

A carnivorous diet (meat only, zero carbs) would accomplish the same without the pharmacological drawback. Been on the diet for over a year and have never felt better in my life.

Have you ever checked your blood sugar on a zero carb diet? It’s far from zero.

This medication is intended to block glucose transport to cancer cells while not blocking to non-cancer cells. Even if a zero carb diet would be a good idea for a cancer patient in general, there is absolutely no chance that a zero carb diet would be equivalent to the intended mechanism of this medication because people with a zero carb diet still have plenty of glucose.

No, it wouldn't. Your brain needs glucose to survive and your body will manufacture it if it's not present. If you actually were able to accomplish what you're saying, you'd be braindead.

You need ATP. The Krebs cycle can manufacture it from either ketone bodies or from glucose.

You also need glucose. With a blood glucose level of zero, you die.

Again, the important thing is ATP, and you can get it from either glucose or ketone bodies:

> In fact, the late George Cahill did an experiment many years ago (probably would never get IRB approval to do such an experiment today) to demonstrate how ketones can offset glucose in the brain. Subjects with very high levels of B-OHB (about 5-7 mM) were injected with insulin until glucose levels reached 1 mM (about 19 mg/dL)! A normal person would fall into a coma at glucose levels below about 40 mg/dL and die by the time blood glucose reached 1 mM. These subjects were completely asymptomatic and 100% neurologically functional.


no, you're both oversimplifying. the brain needs some glucose to sustain itself, a little bit, according to present day research. yes, it can principally function on ketones but not /exclusively/.

it is not controversial that the brain can survive long periods of time on principally ketones, but what has not yet been proven (for obvious ethical reasons) is whether or not the brain can sustain itself with absolutely no glucose whatsoever.

again, the ratios are key. i'm not contesting that ketones can be used as the principal fuel source, just that "the important thing is ATP" because the brain needs some glucose.


I'd like to comment that you are wrong, but in the spirit of discussion; can you cite or link to sources for your claim, from within the past decade?


Wouldn't this drug basically enable you to get the same benefits as someone on a low/no-carb diet even if you aren't?

with protein only, the protein goes through gluconeogensis and the protein is converted into glucose, whereas in keto, the fat is used as fat...

The glycerol backbones in triglycerides also undergo gluconeogenesis.

Yes. Red blood cells literally can only eat glucose. Without it you would be super dead.

I find it amusingly absurd how so many people here seem convinced that our primary food source is somehow a poison. People with 0 carbs in their blood are colloquially known as 'dead'.

I wonder if people even know what ketone bodies are... They are a downstream product of glucose processing(also downstream of fats - the inputs are different but the outputs are identical in a few ways), acetyl-coA, stuck together for bloodstream transport with the coenzyme temporarily removed.

Glucose is definitely food for humans, I think what the discussions here and more generally in nutrition are about lately is where it should come from. Carbs are the only nutrient with a minimum daily intake of zero. Carbs are optional, as to your point, your liver will synthesize all you need to exist or you would be dead. What that process doesn’t come with as much of is a direct spike in insulin and insulin has a lot of downstream effects.

Keto diet is very similar.

Keto/carnivore is incredibly dangerous to the human body in the long run (5+ years out).

Excess protein (in fact, even in the amounts society recognizes as "normal") is bad for you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2R07FL1wVo4

The Vegetarian Society of Hawaii isn't exactly an unbiased source. Maybe for balance we should post a video from the Texas Cattlemen's Association.

I’m sorry, YouTube is too academic and dense. Could you post a TikTok or a meme with the same info?

Dear stranger, I was/am having a pretty bad day and then I read your comment and laughed out loud for the first time since yesterday. Thanks!

Let's save these kind of interactions for reddit, please.

I've been on Keto for almost two years and recently had someone adamantly scold me about how bad it is for my brain. My n=1 suggests otherwise. Things like focus and mood are all significantly better than they were before. Physical and mental stamina have both increased. I went from an "Obese" body fat percentage to "Athletic" in six months.

But still, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and sincerely asked him, and ask others here, "Please provide me with studies that show that it's 'horrible for the brain'." I don't mean that to be snarky. I've looked and haven't been able to find the studies. Maybe I've been looking in the wrong places and I would love to read the studies* that show how bad it is.

Towards the end of the conversation with this guy I found it amusing that he stopped chiding me long enough to ask, "So... wait, what is Keto?"

* Peer-reviewed, scientifically rigorous studies only please.

Maybe your brain function is sufficiently impaired that you can't find the studies?

Seriously, I had an accident in March that necessitated a brain operation and left me in the hospital for over a month. The most surprising after-effect is that I can't always predict or recognize the symptoms arising from that.

My dad had a brain operation a few years ago. His recovery has been somewhat slow and wasn't always smooth but it also wasn't as bad as I think we all expected. Brains are mysterious organs. I wish you all the best in your recovery.

> things like focus and mood are all significantly better then before...

Was your keto diet the only change in your life? Going from obese to athletic in 6 months probably includes some other good habits like going to gym/physical activity and good sleep etc. So maybe your change in a lifestyle helped you improve you mood and focus, not necessarily the keto diet in particular?

I did start working out more. I had to in order to work off the excess energy I suddenly had. But I wasn’t completely sedentary prior to starting Keto. I trained for and ran 5K’s but always felt so sluggish both physically and mentally. So while I’ll grant that the mental gains are influenced by my physical activity, it’s clear to me that the lions share of it comes from my nutritional changes. That was the main reason for starting Keto in the first place; I felt my mental acuity dramatically decreasing and nothing else I was doing seemed to help. The weight loss was icing in the cake, no pun intended.

That video has a lot of pseudoscience ("leaky gut" syndrome, paleo humans never ate meat, etc.) so I'm inclined to distrust it entirely

Leaky gut pseudoscience :)

There's literally thousands of articles on it on pubmed.

Paleo humans never ate meat sounds silly, though.

I wonder if occasional long term fasts can reduce your cancer risk.

From my research, yes it can. I read a study that said patients who fast during chemotherapy treatments fare better too.

The mechanism seems to be that during periods of fasting, normal cells "hunker down" and restrict the consumption of nutrients and other materials. Cancer cells don't do this though and continue to consume the nutrients, which are actually chemotherapy drugs in the patients.

Fasting therfore increases the absorption of chemo by the cancer cells and reduces the consumption by normal cells keeping the patient healthier.

Fasting also enables the body to more completely rid itself of cancerous cells by consuming them in the absence of alternative sources of nutrition.

Lots of reasons why fasting is a good thing.

This information is dangerously wrong. I have asked several oncologists specifically about fasting during chemotherapy and they all recommended strongly against it.

Your understanding of how chemotherapy works with cancer and healthy cells seems flawed. Chemo harms all fast-growing cells, healthy or not. That’s why people have terrible tastes, stomach problems, hair and skin problems during chemo; those are all fast-growing cells. They grow fast whether you are fasting or not; but killing them in large numbers (what the chemo does) raises the body’s demand for energy and nutrients just to maintain health. That demand must be met with healthy food and drink.

Edit to add: Fasting by a healthy person may reduce their chances of developing cancer; that seems plausible to me. My point is that people undergoing chemotherapy should follow the directions of the doctors. In my experience, those directions are to eat well while receiving treatment.

After having researched this topic some, I decided to fast prior to my chemotherapy infusions. I cannot comment on its effectiveness as I haven't experienced chemotherapy without fasting, nor long fasts without chemotherapy. I haven't experienced nausea, but have encountered most of the other expected side effects. Maybe their severity is lessened, but I wouldn't know. In any case, it's been thus far endurable. I haven't decided if I'll continue or try not fasting. (Based on the information I found, I've been fasting for a total of ~2.5 days before each 2-week infusion cycle begins and then another ~2.5 days after the first infusion day.)

Here is one of the articles I'd found in my research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4494906/

I only found preclinical studies. And anecdotal results from others who have tried it. I've been unable to find any good evidence that the efficacy of the chemotherapy is enhanced, only that side effects can be mitigated.

Two oncologists I've seen are not supportive of my fasting but haven't strenuously objected to my decision either.

FWIW, a third oncologist opposed my undergoing chemotherapy at all. I've found, in general, a lack of consensus as to proper treatment, at least in my situation. I've now consulted with seven specialists (four oncologists and three surgeons) and the recommendations haven't been consistent. And most of them decline to give definitive directions, leaving the major decisions to me. My point being that, at least in some situations, following the directions of doctors isn't necessarily an option.

Edit: Added some details


> Conclusion

> [Short Term Fasting] during chemotherapy is well tolerated and appears to improve QOL and fatigue during chemotherapy.


> Abundant and convincing preclinical evidence shows that STF can decrease toxicity and simultaneously increase efficacy of a wide variety of chemotherapeutic agents.


> For general cancer prevention, it may be beneficial to add intermittent or short-term fasts in combination with a plant-based cancer prevention diet


>Fasting may also protect patients against the harmful side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.


> They concluded that a 3-day fast could help regenerate a strong immune system

> Additional research in both rodents and monkeys have shown that when CR was started by 12 months of age, lifespan was increased and incidence of spontaneous cancers was reduced by 50%.

> Furthermore, it is theorized that cancer cells do not respond to the protective signals generated by fasting, thus leaving them vulnerable to both the immune system and cancer treatment.

I feel like this is sufficient to refute your several oncologists' anecdotal opinions which are not supported by the research.


> There is a growing body of evidence supporting the role of fasting in both cancer treatment and prevention.

Lots of links to sources in that article too.

You have to be very careful relying on the advice of oncologists. Think about what their motivations are. What are their biases? I dealt with this very personally for a long time and found oncologists to be ... human and suffer from all the same problems as other humans.

Their patients are ... dying and they don't want to die. It's a very emotional time for all involved.

Just to add to the research ksaun shared, this article reviews and discusses a lot of the key research related to the use of fasting for chemotherapy. https://longevityy.com/fasting-and-cancer-how-fasting-before...

There's an impressive body of research on this subject already, it's just unfortunate that many (most?) oncologists haven't caught up yet with the science.

A common objection is that chemotherapy causes weight loss, and it's important that patients keep their weight up. Where this argument falls down, is when you look at why chemo patients lose weight - and it's primarily due to the treatment reducing their appetite.

So if you're then able to reduce side effects of chemo (which it appears fasting does), patients are then more easily able to eat and maintain/recover their weight.

> I feel like this is sufficient to refute your several oncologists' anecdotal opinions which are not supported by the research.

It's not. Unless you have the appropriate training and experience, you are not capable of making treatment recommendations.

Sorry if that seems harsh, but this is not something you can just Google your way through. This is not one of those things where you can find the hidden truth by reading a few things online and posting citations.

You either have medical training or you don't. If you don't, be very careful about make big medical decisions based on a few things you read online. Plenty of people apply the same heuristic to decide that vaccines are bad, homeopathy works, you can treat cancer with an all-fruit diet, etc.

> You have to be very careful relying on the advice of oncologists. Think about what their motivations are. What are their biases?

Think about what your motivations and biases might be. You're human too.

You appear to be falling victim to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority

The research clearly indicates that there is a benefit to fasting, yet you say the research is wrong because of the opinions of several oncologists.

I'm biased because several oncologists told me something that wasn't true.

Medical research is an inductive endeavor; avoiding deductive fallacies won't help you much.

You have to distinguish between these two statements:

a) There is research that indicates that there is a benefit to fasting

b) The research indicates that there is a benefit to fasting

Statement a) is true; but b) is what you said.

Going from a) to b) is the hard part. It's not enough to know what some research says, you need to place it within the broader context of the field of knowledge before you can make declarative statements of benefit. And cancer is an incredibly complex and fast-moving field of knowledge.

The oncologists I spoke with were aware of research into voluntary fasting, but on balance recommended against it. One reason is that unlike with a healthy person, ending the fast may not be under the patient's control, depending on how they tolerate their chemotherapy. Chemotherapy ends up looking like intermittent fasting for a lot of patients anyway.

Chemotherapy is also cumulative, which means that decisions that appear beneficial in early rounds may end up limiting the total number of sequential rounds that a patient can tolerate.

If someone is not habitually fasting, adding it on top of chemotherapy adds a significant confounding factor to a process that is already hard to predict.

And aside from voluntary fasting, there is a lot of evidence that patients who can eat well and keep their weight up have better outcomes from chemotherapy than those who can't/won't eat and lose weight.

This is what I was told by people who spend their lives studying the treatment of cancer.

> One reason is that unlike with a healthy person, ending the fast may not be under the patient's control, depending on how they tolerate their chemotherapy. Chemotherapy ends up looking like intermittent fasting for a lot of patients anyway.

It sounds like you are saying that the right answer depends on an individual's circumstances. I would agree. Certainly fasting could be harmful for some people depending upon their overall medical situation.

> If someone is not habitually fasting, adding it on top of chemotherapy adds a significant confounding factor to a process that is already hard to predict.

For my situation, the clinical evidence I could find suggested that chemotherapy does not have a statistically significant impact on the probability of disease-free survival. Even the oncologists who are recommending chemotherapy have been reluctant to claim it would necessarily be beneficial. This increased my interest in adding the significant confounding factor of fasting. In fact, you could say that I've been actively seeking significant confounding factors as the default path is rather dark.

As you noted, cancer is an incredibly complex and fast-moving field of knowledge. Given the currently limited research into the impact of fasting, I decided to conclude that maybe it can be helpful (especially since the biological hypotheses made some sense to my primitively educated mind).

Returning to your earlier point, I'm not sure it's currently possible to make a blanket claim of fasting being good or bad with respect to its impact on cancer patients. It seems that it would depend upon the patient's individual situation and priorities.

I agree that each course of treatment depends on each patient's individual situation and priorities. And I absolutely believe that each patient has the right to decide their own treatment when facing such a serious diagnosis.

What I object to is someone without medical training reading a few articles online and then posting universal declarations that fasting is good for everyone on chemo, and that people shouldn't trust oncologists for some reason. Obviously that's not you.

I made a statement derived from lots of research I have personally done. You said I was wrong. I provided evidence of the research. You provided ... none.

You said I was "dangerously wrong" because someone else you talked to said I was wrong, but you have provided no evidence supporting your case, other than hearsay.

I have provided evidence. You concluded with:

> This is what I was told by people who spend their lives studying the treatment of cancer.

Which, again, is appeal to authority. It's a logical fallacy.

How much evidence do I need to provide? https://www.cancertherapyadvisor.com/home/tools/fact-sheets/...

> Current data in humans suggests that IF may be beneficial for chemotherapy outcomes, particularly for reducing toxicities. IF appears to be safe in appropriately selected patients, and the adverse effects associated with fasting appear to all be of low grade.


> Growing preclinical evidence shows that short-term fasting (STF) protects from toxicity while enhancing the efficacy of a variety of chemotherapeutic agents in the treatment of various tumour types. STF reinforces stress resistance of healthy cells, while tumor cells become even more sensitive to toxins, perhaps through shortage of nutrients to satisfy their needs in the context of high proliferation rates and/or loss of flexibility to respond to extreme circumstances.


> Both chronic calorie restriction (CCR) and intermittent calorie restriction (ICR) have shown anticancer effects.


> Fasting and FMDs have the potential for applications in both cancer prevention and treatment.

Do you have any evidence that fasting is deleterious to the health of cancer patients? Except what you said someone said?

Did you ask those oncologists for any evidence supporting their case or did you just take their words at face value?

About 75-80% of the immune cells in your body can be found in the gut.

I suspect that one thing fasting does is frees up those cells to do other stuff.

Are there any studies of the impact of fasting on chronic viral infections, etc.?

I have no idea.

Anecdotally, I've seen people comment on HN and Reddit that fasting helped them with some chronic health issue or other. Here's an HN comment that says he was on antibiotics constantly until he tried fasting:


If you find any such studies, please share. Thanks.

  more completely rid itself of cancerous cells by consuming them
I don't think that's the mechanism of action.

Got any links to the research? Would be helpful to me and other readers. Thanks.

This article reviews and discusses a lot of the key research related to the use of fasting for chemotherapy. https://longevityy.com/fasting-and-cancer-how-fasting-before...

Papers it discusses include: * Starvation-dependent differential stress resistance protects normal but not cancer cells against high-dose chemotherapy – Lizzia Raffaghello, Valter Longo et al. (2008) https://www.dropbox.com/sh/wmq7q6azyzfsubm/AACoCigKOQYxthruL...

* The effects of short-term fasting on tolerance to (neo) adjuvant chemotherapy in HER2-negative breast cancer patients: a randomized pilot study – Stefanie de Groot et al. (2015) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4595051/

* Fasting and cancer treatment in humans: A case series report – Valter Longo et al. (2009) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2815756/

* Fasting-Mimicking Diet Reduces HO-1 to Promote T Cell-Mediated Tumor Cytotoxicity – Di Biase et al. (2016) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27411588

* The effects of short-term fasting on quality of life and tolerance to chemotherapy in patients with breast and ovarian cancer: a randomized cross-over pilot study – Bauersfeld et al (2018) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29699509

Here's a description of a "press-pulse" protocol that includes fasting, calorie restriction, and ketogenic diet scenarios (main goal seems to be to limit glucose intake as part of the treatment as part of an effort at stressing the energy systems of the cancer cells to cause cell death): https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10... Check the references for some other papers on fasting and chemotherapy. Also, here's a related human case study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29651419

I’ve read and heard about it quite a bit recently. Not sure but maybe start here, Valter Longo seems to be doing some interesting stuff: https://valterlongo.com/cancer/

There's a lot of research about it. I posted some above. You can search and find lots. It's all out there.

The use of carb and glutamine restriction (see the work of Dr Thomas Seyfried) to boost the effectiveness of cancer treatments was modeled after fasting-mimicking diets. Essentially, Seyfried's work is basically that diet, but in a pill.

Actual long term fasting (ie, 3-5 day hardcore mode shit) allows the body to maximize autophagy to kill off damaged cells. The western diet of 3 square meals a day and keeping insulin levels alarmingly high (which both frequent and carb-laden diets promote) stops autophagy (for safety reasons; you don't want to accidentally attack cells doing their tasks to absorb and utilize nutrients).

So yeah, given what is known about cancer today, I personally eat keto omad (one meal a day intermittent fasting) within a 4 hour window every day, and periodically fast on top of that.

To reach a ketogenic state, the term fast from a clinical sense required 24-36 hour period without any caloric intake; strictly water. I have done 3 day water fasts, the hunger waves need to be controlled the first 2 days, but the feeling is gone after that point.

There are many things to consider, including refeeding syndrome, it is highly advised to seek MD advice prior to undertaking such a diet.

Lastly, there is a ton of research highlighting fasting and its effects on stem cell regenerative properties.

One thing that surprised me when water fasting was that while the hunger went away on the second day (starting in ketosis helps), I found myself still craving the reward and ritual of meals. Lunchtime arrived, and I missed the excuse to take a break from life/obligations and indulge in the enjoyable process of eating, independently from satiating hunger. I think when I do it again, I'll find some non-consuming activities to fill that void.

I do feel there is something very substantial regarding the various human metabolic states as they relate to these seemingly "everywhere" diseases that have no definitive causes.

Ketogenesis is arguably the most ideal state for our bodies to operate in, but it is also arguably the hardest one to maintain in our society. It is difficult for most to consistently ignore that big-ass box of krispy kreme donuts your asshole coworker brings in every day. Just one of those per day is probably enough to keep you stuck in glycogenesis for the rest of the morning and into part of the afternoon.

If you look at the push of HFCS and other crappy food options with incidence rates of cancer over the last 3 decades, I am pretty sure you will see some correlation there. Obviously, it is hard to draw a causal link between these, but at a certain point I am going to give up on the academic explanation in favor of a series of practical observations and whatever inferences I can draw from those. I am also acutely aware of the influence of profit seeking in the medical & academic communities. When I see a study come out that says something along the lines of "sugar isn't actually that bad for you" I immediately think big sugar or corn financed this research piece for their own benefit.

I have personally fasted for stretches as long as 5 days, been on one-meal-a-day, and have been on ketogenic diets for months at a time. I have also been a complete waste of a human, eating and binging on all manner of sugary, carb-loaded foods and other unspeakable horrors. I can tell you that 100% of the time, I felt better in the ketogenic state. Sure, you can argue for that very brief feel-good you get from slamming that donut, or the mental fortitude required to force yourself into keto. But, at the end of the day, once you are keto it's easy. It's just the transition phase that sucks. As with most things.

> It is difficult for most to consistently ignore that big-ass box of krispy kreme donuts

Krispy Kreme donuts are easy to avoid ... Donuts from your local hole in the wall donut shop on the other hand.

I came here to say this. Seems like an intuitive conclusion.

OTOH, intuition is sometimes wrong.

It should be a pretty simple study to do. Just make sure to get enough people involved. Then correlate amount of fasting with the incidence of cancer over some period of time. I guess the duration of the study would be the only impediment.

Supposedly it can, because your body when lacking nutrition for several days (I think like 5 at least) will break down weak/damaged cells for protein, which usually are the ones most likely to turn cancerous at some point.

This is what I've read on the topic and longetivity studies on people who go on long term fasts seem to support it.

That's what I've been told/read on the topic, but I'm not an expert by any means.

Yes. Do a fast at the start of Spring & Fall.

I always respected the religions that observed some sort of fast, as it was a cool way they encoded health & longevity into their population.

Perhaps a good rule of thumb: any time a significant number of worldwide religions independently converge on a single practice/idea, there may be something of value there worth porting to the secular world (see also: the sabbath, and the "golden rule").

If I ever retire and become a cult leader this is my pet religion, I call it Vennism. Combine all the teachings and trim away those teachings that aren't common, what you're left with seems like it would probably be a good religion right?

Sounds good, but no kool-aid. We gotta mix all the other religious drinks instead. Thinking like a trippy sangria. You got the Christian wine, some Shamanic ayahuasca, Buddhist tea, Muslim qahwa, maybe a little blood of the innocent for the Satanists out there.

Kinda like the Perennial Philosophy [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perennial_philosophy

Prolonged fasts (dry and water fasts) are the key to getting well and curing a long list of diseases.

Edit: I don't want to provide sources. Me not providing a source on demand for the HN crowd does not mean this is not true. Do your own research, or don't.

Please provide sources. You've made multiple statements like this on this thread with either specious sources or none at all.

The article is about what cancer eats, not what you eat. The world’s leading neuro-oncologists I’ve talked to don’t believe diet matters.

Yep, bodies filled with glucose unless you're starving to death. Eat fat; glycogenolysis turns it into glucose for your cells; eat protein, the amino acids are used in gluconeogenesis to synthesize glucose. Pretty crucial for cellular respiration.

I have endogenous hyperinsulinemia (mostly proinsulin). That means I really can't go without consuming sugar or I will get neuroglycopenic. What's interesting is (they don't know yet) this could be caused by a type of pancreatic cancer. Seems really bad then if the cancer itself wants more sugar. Maybe this is why Steve Jobs tended toward fruits for 9 months and ended up with metastasis...

In general, people who overeat are more susceptible to many forms of cancer, and cancers are more virulent among overeaters.


It would make sense that by limiting food intake, cancers would progress slower.

This is great science writing. Straightforward, factual, and with context to help folks put the findings into perspective. It's a refreshing change from the hyperbolic coverage of scientific topics one often finds in more mainstream media.

Shit, a lot of things that I had considered healthy are high in glutamine.

It's worth clarifying that glutamine isn't unhealthy in moderate amounts.

It's just that when treating cancer, there may be opportunity to modify its intake and see benefits.

Starve cancer with cannabis oil with 95% THC concentration. Don't suffer, the cure has existed for thousands of years.

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