Study Finds Intermittent Fasting Protects Against Liver Inflammation And Cancer

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, May 29, 2024 - 07:30 AM

Authored by Ayla Roberts via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A new study has found that intermittent fasting may protect against liver inflammation and even liver cancer.

The study, conducted at the German Cancer Research Center and the University of Tübingen and published in the journal Cell Metabolism, aimed to understand more about how intermittent fasting can affect the liver. The researchers found that intermittent fasting can halt the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a precursor to chronic liver inflammation and liver cancer.

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Study Findings Explained

The researchers conducted their experiment by implementing a fasting regimen on mice with pre-existing liver inflammation. It was found that, after four months of intermittent fasting, the mice had improved liver function tests, less fat in their livers, decreased fibrosis, and were less likely to develop liver cancer in the future.

The mice followed a 5:2 fasting diet, meaning they fasted for two days, then were allowed to consume an unlimited number of calories for five days. The cycle was then repeated for four months until the study was concluded.

The researchers also discovered two proteins (known as PPAR-alpha and PCK1) within liver cells that seem to have contributed to the protective effects of intermittent fasting. The study supports March research that suggests fasting can have a powerful impact on one’s overall health.

“In recent years, caloric restriction and fasting studies have stumbled upon many positive health benefits. Some of the benefits include cancer prevention. It is well established that metabolic factors such as high levels of insulin and blood sugar, increase the risk of breast cancer.” Dr. Francisco Contreras told The Epoch Times in an email. Dr. Contreras is a board-certified oncologist who treats patients in California and Mexico.

Intermittent fasting has proven to reduce the incidence of this malignancy and also to reduce the risk of recurrence after treatment. Patients that could do intermittent fasting during treatment experienced relief of chemotherapy-induced adverse effects and cytotoxicity with significant improvement of their quality of life.”

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a type of eating pattern that involves alternating periods of eating and abstaining from food. Most people participate in intermittent fasting for health reasons and research supports intermittent fasting as a way to manage weight and some forms of disease, at least in the short-term.

During fasting days, your body runs off ketones derived from stored fats (triglycerides) in your body. But these ketones work as more than just fuel. They regulate the expression of many proteins and signaling molecules.” Dr. Caroline Walker told The Epoch Times in an email. Dr. Walker is a board-certified gastroenterologist based in Denton, Texas. “It is through these molecules that it is thought that intermittent fasting may have effects on cell growth and plasticity, tissue remodeling, decreased insulin exposure and decreased insulin resistance, improved lipid profile, improved blood pressure, and even improved asthma symptoms.”

According to Dr. Contreras, some of the other benefits of eating less, either by amount or by fasting, include:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased insulin sensitivity
  • Improved immunity
  • Body detoxification
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Improved heart health

All of these benefits have the potential to prevent chronic disease, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer.

Although there are many different intermittent fasting schedules to choose from, it is generally recommended not to fast for longer than 24 hours, as doing so often does more harm than good. Research regarding the long-term efficacy of intermittent fasting has also garnered mixed results, with a January 2023 study finding no evidence that intermittent fasting affects long-term weight loss results.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that intermittent fasting is not the best dietary choice for everyone and can even have dangerous consequences for people with certain health conditions.

“Patients should always speak with their primary care doctor prior to beginning intermittent fasting. It may not be right for those with type I diabetes, history of an eating disorder, pregnant or breastfeeding (or trying to get pregnant), or are taking warfarin,” advised Dr. Walker.

Who Is Most at Risk for Developing Liver Inflammation or Liver Cancer?

The most common liver condition worldwide is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is estimated that 24 percent of all U.S. adults and nearly 10 percent of U.S. children have NAFLD. NAFLD results in excessive fat buildup within the liver, which in turn can lead to liver inflammation, also known as steatohepatitis, as Dr. Contreras explains:

“There is no question that the dietary habits of our generation are a major factor of metabolic disturbances caused by obesity and the liver is the organ most affected. The incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is on the rise worldwide. A very dangerous condition that can progress into steatohepatitis and cirrhosis which can lead to hepatocellular carcinoma, one of the most aggressive malignancies and the fastest-rising cancer in the USA.”

According to Dr. Walker, certain people are more at risk for developing NAFLD, including those who have:

  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Abdominal obesity (defined as waist circumference greater than or equal to 40 inches in males and greater than or equal to 35 inches in females)
  • High levels of triglycerides
  • Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • High fasting blood sugar
  • Hepatitis B or C
  • Heavy alcohol use

Aside from preexisting medical conditions, genes and diet can also influence a person’s likelihood to develop NAFLD. Scientists are also studying how the gut biome may impact NAFLD and have already discovered differences in the microbiomes of people with NAFLD compared to people without the condition.

Opportunities for Future Research

Although the study is promising, the researchers acknowledge that because the study was conducted on mice, there is no way to know definitively if the intermittent fasting regimen would produce the same results in humans. However, the results do show significant promise regarding the potential efficacy of intermittent fasting as a preventative tool for humans.

Beyond this, Dr. Walker feels there is a notable opportunity in the future to compare and contrast a study group following the 5:2 fasting regimen to another group following a different dietary pattern.

“I do believe that they could have added value to their work by having a control group of mice who had lost body weight by another form of dietary control. This would have added value, particularly to their hypothesis that it is specifically the fasting that is responsible for the changes in fibrosis,” says Dr. Walker.