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Longevity Briefs: Can Short-Term Fasting Improve Chemotherapy Outcomes?

Posted on 10 September 2020

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Gut injury is a dangerous common consequence of chemotherapy. Bacteria in the gut influence the effects of chemotherapy, and are highly sensitive to what we eat, with fasting seeming to increase the health and diversity of gut microbiome. Long term fasting has previously been shown to protect the gut against damage from chemotherapy, particularly by boosting the population of Lactobacillus.

What did the researchers do: Researchers wanted to see whether fasting for just 48 hours prior to chemotherapy could reduce intestinal damage. To this end, they treated rats with chemotherapy with or without fasting for 48 hours beforehand. They then studied the extent of damage to the gut and the health of their gut bacteria.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: Fasting improved the diversity and richness of the rats’ gut bacteria, and also slowed the division rate of cells lining the gut, both of which are protective. Unfortunately, fasting combined with chemotherapy also caused significant weight loss and didn’t affect Lactobacillus populations, and was ultimately unable to reduce the severity of gut damage. Further studies should explore different fasting schedules or other interventions that may be able to isolate the positive effects of fasting.

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