Study: Fasting Mimicking Diets May Enhance Effectiveness of Chemo

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A Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD), a plant-based program that nourishes the body while keeping it in a fasting mode to deliver differential effects on all normal and cancer cells, may help make chemotherapy work more effectively against cancer, and could potentially help shield healthy cells from damage during chemotherapy. That’s the word from The DIRECT study published in Nature Communications.

FMD is the result of decades of research from the University of Southern California (USC) on nutrients and genes that regulate aging and resist cellular stress, and it is one of the leading technologies of L-Nutra, a USC spinoff company dedicated to enhancing human health and longevity, according to a press release from L-Nutra.

This randomized controlled study included 129 patients with HER2 negative breast cancer: 65 patients were assigned to the group receiving the FMD three days prior to, and the day of chemotherapy; 64 patients continued their regular diet. Patients received either the FMD plus chemotherapy or the drug dexamethasone plus chemotherapy. The primary endpoint of the study was grade III/IV toxicity and complete pathological response.

Key findings, according to the release:

  • Side effects were similar between the two groups, which suggests that FMD may be as effective as the drug dexamethasone in reducing chemo side effects.
  • Clinical response occurred more often in FMD group, with DNA damage in normal lymphocyte cells after chemotherapy reduced in the FMD group compared to the group following a standard diet.
  • The data indicates that a 90-100% tumor cell death was three to four times more likely to occur in patients who were adherent to three FMD cycles; the more cycles of FMDs the patients adhered to, the higher percentage of tumor cell loss was reported.

“This revelatory study on the benefits of a plant-based, Fasting Mimicking Diet during chemotherapy may represent a major breakthrough for women undergoing breast cancer treatments,” said breast surgeon Dr. Kristi Funk, former director of the Breast Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in the release. “This study supports the concept that FMD creates the metabolic environment that supports chemo’s ability to destroy cancer cells while minimizing the collateral damage to normal cells. With a FMD, you get to eat, so you’re not too hangry, but your cells still respond as if you’re strictly fasting.”

Professor Valter Longo, Director of USC’s Longevity Institute and a DIRECT study co-author who discovered the effect of fasting and FMDs in the protection of normal cells and sensitization of cancer cells, said, “The results in this study are remarkable and consistent with those in mice in the overall body of research, especially those indicating that the portion of patients who responded well to chemotherapy is much higher in the group who completed most or all cycles of the FMD.”

Summing up the findings, Dr. Funk added: “This research essentially found that fasting switches healthy cells from a busy, proliferative state to a quiet, maintenance mode. Why? There’s low level of nutrient and insulin around, so it’s time to conserve energy. Malignant cells, however, don’t listen to these body’s signals and don’t respond to food scarcity by entering this protective mode. Because chemo targets cells that divide quickly, when you receive it in a fasted state, it should sail past quiet healthy cells and more effectively target the busy cancer cells.”

Read the full study here.

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