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

he wild regularly go through cycles of too much and too little food, though not by choice. Major predators, such as lions, may go days without eating and then binge when they make a successful kill. "It may be normal to have periods where we are not eating," said Hellerstein. "But in domestic life, there generally is continuous access to food."

It goes without saying, however, that there is more to changes in eating patterns, such as fasting, than just the physical effects. Both scientific and anecdotal evidence indicates that eating also can impact one's mental state and emotions.

A recent pilot study of 16 non-obese adults by researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana found that eating only every other day was feasible when the participants successfully followed an alternate-day fasting regimen for three weeks. However, the people also reported feeling hungry and irritable on their fasting days.

The authors of the pilot study said that adding a small meal, fulfilling no more than 20 percent of the day's caloric needs, might just take the edge off and make the feeding pattern more palatable.

Notably, the UC Berkeley study is the first to actually quantify the effects of calorie manipulation on cell division. The researchers did so by using heavy water, which is chemically identical to regular water but is about 10 percent heavier because of an extra neutron.

Hellerstein's laboratory pioneered the use of heavy water as a biological marker for cell proliferation. Because heavy water is incorporated into the DNA of new cells, researchers can compare the mass of DNA from tissues in experimental animals to tissues from control animals. They would know that any differences in DNA mass would be attributed to new cells.

"The significance of this labeling is that it allows researchers to accurately gauge the effects of relatively small changes in diet, such as a five percent reduction in caloric inta
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Contact: Sarah Yang
scyang@berkeley.edu
510-643-7741
University of California - Berkeley
15-Mar-2005


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