According to research presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting, March 23, 2019, intermittent fasting, where you eat all your meals for the day within a narrow window of time — in this case eight hours — drastically reduces a woman’s risk of breast cancer. According to Dr. Manasi Das, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego, who led the research team:

“Improving the metabolic health of postmenopausal women with obesity may mitigate their risk for breast cancer. Time-restricted eating may be more successful than calorie restriction in controlling the negative effects of obesity, due to the hunger and irritability that makes it more difficult to stick with long-term calorie restriction. The results suggest the anti-tumour effect of time-restricted eating is at least partially due to lower levels of insulin, suggesting this intervention may be effective in breast cancer prevention and therapy. Exploring the ability of time-restricted eating to prevent breast cancer could provide an inexpensive but effective strategy to prevent cancer impacting a wide range of patients and represents a ground-breaking advance in breast cancer research.”

Link Between Insulin Resistance and Cancer Strengthens

The team conducted three separate experiments on mice whose ovaries had been removed to simulate a postmenopausal state.

In the first experiment, the mice were first fattened up with a high-fat diet, after which they were divided into two groups: One had access to food around the clock, while the other had eight-hour access to chow at night (the time of highest physical activity). The control group consisted of lean mice given access to a low-fat diet 24 hours a day. Three weeks into the experiment, all of the animals were injected with breast cancer cells.

Results showed time-restricted feeding, also known as intermittent fasting, reduced tumour growth in the obese mice to levels similar to those in the lean mice.

In the second experiment, they used mice that were genetically modified to develop breast cancer. As before, half of them had round-the-clock access to a high-fat diet while the others had access to food for eight hours. Here, they also assessed the impact of insulin by artificially raising insulin in some mice using an insulin pump, while lowering it in others using the drug diazoxide.

In the third experiment, mice fed a low-fat diet were either given insulin via an insulin pump or saline as a control, while mice on a high-fat diet were either given diazoxide to lower their insulin levels, or no drug as the control. As you’d suspect, higher insulin levels fuelled tumour development, while lower levels inhibited cancer growth. As reported by the New York Post:

“The results add to a growing body of evidence that indicates obesity and metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors that increase the chance of developing heart disease stroke and diabetes, are also risk factors for cancer, particularly postmenopausal breast cancer.”

Indeed, other studies have found intermittent fasting is a powerful anti-cancer strategy, and researchers are even working on getting it approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an adjunct to cancer treatment to improve long-term survival rates.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, that is, following a meal-timing schedule where you’re fasting for at least 16 hours every day and eating all of your meals within eight consecutive hours, has a long list of confirmed health benefits.

There are also other intermittent fasting plans where you dramatically cut back on your calories for a certain number of days each week, while eating normally during the remainder. The 5-to-2 intermittent fasting plan is one such example. The fasting mimicking diet, developed to match the effects of water-only fasting, is another.

Most if not all of these plans have similar benefits, which include the following.

Releasing ketones into your bloodstream, which help preserve brain function and protect against epileptic seizures, cognitive impairment and other neurodegenerative diseases
Boosting the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which stimulates creation of new brain cells and triggers brain chemicals that protect against brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
Increasing growth hormone by as much as 1,300 percent in women and 2,000 percent in men,thereby promoting muscle development and vitality
Lowering insulin and improving your insulin sensitivity; studies have shown intermittent fasting can both prevent and reverse Type 2 diabetes, which is rooted in insulin resistance
Increasing levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which helps your body break down fat to be used as fuel, and benefits your metabolism
Upregulating autophagy and mitophagy, which will help protect against most diseases, including cancer and neurodegeneration
Shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal
Boosting mitochondrial energy efficiency and biosynthesis
Lowering oxidative stress and inflammation
Improving circulating glucose and lipid levels
Reducing blood pressure
Improving metabolic efficiency and body composition, modulating levels of dangerous visceral fat, and significantly reducing body weight in obese individuals
Reproducing some of the cardiovascular benefits associated with exercise
Regenerating the pancreas and improving pancreatic function
Protecting against cardiovascular disease
Reducing low-density lipoprotein and total cholesterol
Improving immune function
Synchronising your body’s biological clocks
Eliminating sugar cravings as your body adapts to burning fat instead of sugar
Increases Longevity — There are a number of mechanisms contributing to this effect. Normalising insulin sensitivity is a major one, but fasting also inhibits the mTOR pathway, which plays an important part in driving the ageing process

Intermittent Fasting Considerations

While intermittent fasting is likely to be beneficial for most people, there are some points to consider:

• Intermittent fasting does not have to be a form of calorie restriction It’s a practice that should make you feel good. If your fasting strategy is making you feel weak and lethargic, re-evaluate your approach.

• Sugar cravings are temporary

Your hunger and craving for sugar will slowly dissipate as your body starts burning fat as its primary fuel. Once your body has successfully shifted into fat burning mode, it will be easier for you to fast for as long as 18 hours and still feel satiated.

• When intermittent fasting, it’s important to eat real food

While intermittent fasting may sound like a panacea against ill health and excess weight, it alone may not provide you with all of these benefits. The quality of your diet plays an important role if you’re looking for more than mere weight loss.

It’s critical to avoid processed foods, particularly refined carbohydrates, sugar/fructose and grains. Focus your diet on vegetable carbohydrates, healthy protein in moderate amounts, and healthy fats such as butter, eggs, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil and raw nuts.

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