Dawn-to-sunset fasting associated with anti-cancer proteins

Doctors have said for years that a healthy diet can support a healthy body, but now researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have found evidence that it’s not just what you eat, but when you eat that can be beneficial.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Proteomics and funded by National Institutes of Health, Dr. Ayse Leyla Mindikoglu, associate professor of medicine and surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, and her colleagues found that dawn-to-sunset fasting was associated with proteins protective against cancer as well as obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, inflammation and some neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

“What this means is that we showed an increase in the levels of specific proteins that are downregulated in several cancers and other disorders,” she said.

Downregulation is the process by which a cell decreases the quantity of its cellular component. For example, a tumor suppression protein or gene would be downregulated in someone with cancer, allowing for the proliferation of cancer cells. In the case of the current study, researchers found that those types of proteins are actually at increased levels after dawn-to-sunset fasting.

“We are finding protein signatures that could have protective properties against a number of illnesses and, specifically, cancers,” Mindikoglu said.

Fasting details

Researchers followed 14 people participating in Ramadan fasting – 30 consecutive days of no eating or drinking from dawn to sunset, which totaled fasting for more than 14 hours each day. Outside of that time, there were no calorie or diet restrictions. Participants ate as much or as little as they needed at the transition zones of the day; i.e., they began fasting after having breakfast before dawn and ended fasting with dinner at sunset. Having breakfast before dawn protected participants against dangerous increases in blood pressure and sugar levels that could have occurred if breakfast was skipped or delayed to late morning hours.

Blood samples were taken before fasting began, at the end of the fourth week of 30-day fasting, and one week after fasting ended. Untargeted proteomic profiling was conducted on those samples by the Mass Spectrometry Proteomics Core at Baylor College of Medicine.

Why these results?

“We believe fasting of this type has these results because it is resetting the circadian clock,” Mindikoglu said.

Past studies in mice have shown that disrupting the circadian clock rhythm is associated with cancer and metabolic syndrome. However, time-restricted feeding was shown to reset the disrupted clock rhythm and, in turn, optimize the functioning of certain regulatory proteins.

What’s next?

Don’t change your diet just yet, Mindikoglu said, or without talking to your doctor.

“Our study looked at a small number of people during a set time frame, so lasting effects of these results are not yet known. There are also other questions about how often someone fasts or how diet might affect the findings,” Mindikoglu said.

“Despite that, our results, even at this stage, are significant. It could potentially have implications on a number of debilitating diseases and disorders, and this shows us that we are heading in the right direction as we continue our research.”

Others who contributed to the research include Dr. Mustafa M. Abdulsada, Antrix Jain, Dr. Jong Min Choi, Dr. Prasun K. Jalal, Dr. Sridevi Devaraj, Dr. Melissa P. Mezzari, Dr. Joseph F. Petrosino, Antone R. Opekun, Dr. Sung Yun Jung.

The research reported in this publication and press release was supported in part by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P30DK056338 (National Institutes of Health Public Health Service grant P30DK056338 which funds the Texas Medical Center Digestive Diseases Center) and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P30CA125123 (which funds the Baylor College of Medicine Mass Spectrometry Proteomics Core). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The research reported also was supported in part by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Core Facility Award (RP170005), the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research, Baylor College of Medicine, an unrestricted institutional grant from DR and GP Laws and a grant from Dora Roberts Foundation Grant.

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