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Fasting intermittently reduces cell proliferation, a marker for cancer risk, study finds

Berkeley -- An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but could eating an apple every other day be better?

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, raises such a possibility. It shows that healthy mice given only 5 percent fewer calories than mice allowed to eat freely experienced a significant reduction in cell proliferation in several tissues, considered an indicator for cancer risk. The key was that the mice eating 5 percent fewer calories were fed intermittently, or three days a week.

What is encouraging about the findings is that the reduction in cell proliferation from that intermittent feeding regimen was only slightly less than that of a more severe 33 percent reduction in calories. Until now, scientists have been certain only of a link between a more substantial calorie reduction and a reduction in the rate of cell proliferation.

The results of the study are scheduled to appear in the May 2005 issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, but are now available online.

"Cell proliferation is really the key to the modern epidemic of cancer," said Marc Hellerstein, professor of human nutrition in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources. Hellerstein is principal investigator of the study.

Cancer is essentially the uncontrolled division of cells, and its development typically requires the presence of multiple mutations. "Normally, a cell will try to fix any damage that has occurred to its DNA," said Hellerstein, "But, if it divides before it has a chance to fix the damage, then that damage becomes memorialized as a mutation in the offspring cells. Slowing down the rate of cell proliferation essentially buys time for the cells to repair genetic damage."

Cell proliferation contributes to carcinogenesis in a number of other ways, as well, collectively termed "cancer promotion."

Studies over the past
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Contact: Sarah Yang
scyang@berkeley.edu
510-643-7741
University of California - Berkeley
15-Mar-2005


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