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Why Pediatric Oncologists May Prescribe Fasting Someday

child listening to doctor's stethoscopeAcute lymphatic leukemia, also referred to as ALL, is the most common type of leukemia in children. A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine suggests that intermittent fasting may become a viable part of treatment plans.

ALL is a type of blood cancer that affects the production of white blood cells called lymphocytes in a child’s bone marrow. It prevents the lymphocytes from full maturing, causing problems with a child’s immune system as well as anemia and unusual bleeding.

Chemotherapy is the most common leukemia in children treatment. But while chemo can an effective way to successfully treat leukemia, it can be a physically difficult process and relapse still occurs in some children. The results of the study indicate that intermittent fasting may be a way to prevent the appearance or reappearance of ALL in children.

Scientists have found that daily cycles of fasting and feeding in mice with ALL prevented the cancer from developing.

How Can Fasting Be a Leukemia Treatment in Children?

The medical researchers in the study subjected populations of lab mice with ALL to cycle where they were fed normally on one day then not fed the next. The researchers then studied how this every-other-day fasting pattern affected the development of the cancer.

The mice were genetically enhanced with fluorescent proteins to allow the scientists to monitor the cancer cell response to each change in diet. The researchers found that after seven weeks, the mice that fasted every other day were almost completely free of leukemia cells in bone marrow and the spleen. The cells of mice who were fed normally were around 68 percent cancerous.

While research into a fasting-based leukemia treatment has yet to be conducted on humans, the researchers are hopeful that the progression to clinical trials will be swift since treatment doesn’t involve drugs.