Intermittent Fasting and the Prevention of Cancer

June 4th, 2013 by Dr. Keith Nemec

Fasting has a long tradition in the ancient world, and has been used in both religious ceremonies and as a way to maintain the body’s total health. It seems that what our ancient ancestors understood we are only just beginning to rediscover. Today, the value of periodic fasting as a way of detoxifying the body has been largely accepted by the natural health community, and is beginning to make inroads amongst the general public. But recent studies have shown that intermittent fasting may do more than rejuvenate the cells and tissues of the body. It would appear that fasting also plays a vital role in the prevention of cancer.

Caloric Restriction and Cancer

Caloric restriction is one of the most basic techniques used to improve the overall health of the body. Obesity is a major concern in the West, and it has been proven to be at the root of many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. By restricting calories, or dieting, we can reduce excess weight and better maintain a healthy body-mass index. This is obviously nothing new, and people use caloric restriction for weight loss as a matter of course. But recent studies have shown that restricting our daily caloric intake by as little as 25% can have a profound effect on the body at a cellular level.

The cells of the body use the food we eat as energy for self-repair and reproduction. When we over-eat we are, in effect, supplying too much fuel to our body’s cells. What happens then is that our cells have a surplus of energy that cannot be stored, but must be used immediately. Too often, this forces the cell to reproduce before it has finished any necessary self-repair. This leads to abnormal cell growth, and the potential for precancerous and cancerous tumors. In a very real sense, our tendency towards obesity is making our bodies the ideal breeding ground for cancer.

Intermittent Fasting

Caloric restriction on a daily basis can be difficult for many people. Dieting demands that we not only reduce calories, but we must also deprive ourselves of certain favorite foods. It can also be difficult to maintain a diet in the work-a-day world where meals are not always prepared at home. Dieting can become a chore that we would just as soon shrug off as continue with. Intermittent fasting holds the answer, and without the daunting prospect of a never ending dieting regimen.

When we talk about intermittent fasting there are two basic techniques to consider:

  • Daily Intermittent Fasting – This is the most basic of techniques, and involves setting a strict daily eating schedule. Sixteen hours of fasting followed by an eight hour window for meals. For example, one might fast from midnight to noon, and allow for meals from noon to eight in the evening. People using this technique should closely monitor their weekly caloric intake. Because you are cutting a meal or two out of your day, it’s easy to get too few calories in a week.
  • Intermittent Weekly Fasting – This is one of the best ways to test the waters of intermittent fasting. This is an occasional fast that is used more for promoting the body’s total health than for weight management. This is a 24 hour fast that can be performed once a week, or once a month for beginners. The most common technique is to select a day, and to begin your fast at noon, continuing the fast until noon of the next day. This schedule has the added benefit of including the time you spend sleeping as part of your fasting hours.

Fasting on a regular basis can have a number of significant health benefits beyond the simple restriction of calories. Intermittent fasting has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of allergies, arthritis and many digestive disorders. Research has also demonstrated that periodic fasting can play a vital role in the prevention of variety diseases, not the least of which is cancer. What our ancestors understood about periodic fasting is quickly becoming recognized as one of the most successful all natural techniques for maintaining the body’s total health.