5:2 intermittent fasting method may reduce liver cancer risk: Know how to follow it

woman with a liver

Liver cancer is a rare cancer that affects the primary liver cells called hepatocytes. Tumors resulting from mutations in the liver cells might impair the main function of the liver, which is to filter the blood in the body and break down poisonous substances, such as alcohol and drugs. One of the biggest factors that can trigger the risk is your diet. What you consume daily can impact your liver health. A new study conducted by the German Cancer Research Center has found that following an intermittent diet can help reduce liver cancer risk.

The link between diet, obesity, and liver cancer

Did you know unhealthy diet, obesity, liver inflammation, and liver cancer are linked? As per the study, obesity is a rising concern in developing countries such as India and China. As a consequence, cases of liver cancer and failure are also increasing.

A study published in the journal Hepatology found that obesity can increase the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver. Fatty liver disease is the most common chronic liver disease, as per a study published in the journal Gastroenterology. If left untreated, fatty liver can lead to liver inflammation, cirrhosis, and even cancer.

Also Read: Liver cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer! Here’s how

Following intermittent fasting can help you manage liver diseases. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Intermittent fasting may reduce liver cancer risk

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern in which you cycle between periods of eating and periods of fasting. The study conducted by the researchers at DFKZ and the University of Tubigen found that intermittent fasting may help lower the risk of liver cancer.

For the study, researchers fed a group of mice a typical Western diet, consisting of high-sugar and high-fat foods, and another group full access to the food. A third group of mice were not given anything to eat for two days a week, which is the 5:2 method of intermittent fasting (IF).

While the first two groups gained weight and fat and developed liver inflammation, the other group following the IF method did not put any weight. It was also found that the 5:2 dietary pattern works better than the 6:1 and the 24-hour fasting method. They also showed fewer signs of liver disease or liver inflammation. It was found that the lesser the intake of calories, the lower the risk of developing a liver disease.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that alternates between periods of fasting and eating. Unlike traditional diets that focus on what to eat, IF focuses on when to eat. There are several types of intermittent fasting methods. The 16:2 method, which includes 16 hours of fasting and an 8-hour eating window, and the 5:2 method, which involves eating normally for five days s week and restricting your calorie intake on two days.

During fasting, the body uses stored fat for energy since it does not receive fresh calories from food. It can help you lose weight, and offer other health benefits, including improved insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation, increased longevity, and lower risk of liver disease.

The 5:2 method of intermittent fasting

Also known as The Fast Diet, the 5:2 method of intermittent fasting diet includes eating for five days of the week, and restricting the calorie intake to 500-600 calories for two days. It is as simple as it sounds and people find it easier to follow than other calorie-restricted diets, found a study published in the Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine.

For the five days of eating normally, you do not worry about calorie restriction. However, eating normally does not mean that you eat anything such as junk food, because that won’t help you keep your weight in check or give you other benefits. You then cut back on your daily calorie intake to a quarter of what you eat on the remaining two days. This equates to roughly 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. You can choose any two days of the week. Keeping Monday and Thursday as fasting days and eating normal for the rest of the days is one common example of how you can follow the 5:2 method of intermittent fasting.

How to eat during the fasting period of intermittent fasting?

There is no rule of what or when to eat during the fasting days. However, if you are still confused, here’s a breakdown of how you want to eat if you are following the 5:2 diet.

  • Begin your day with a small breakfast.
  • All your main meals should be small: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Focus on eating high-fiber and high-protein foods that will make you feel full without consuming too many calories.
  • You can eat vegetables, yogurt, eggs, fish, lean meat, soups, low-calorie cup soups, black coffee, tea, still or sparkling water.
intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting must be done right to avail the benefits. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Who should avoid intermittent fasting?

While intermittent fasting is considered safe, it may not be suitable for you. Some people with the following problems should avoid intermittent fasting:

  • Eating disorders
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Underweight or malnourished individuals
  • Pregnant or trying to conceive
  • People with infertility issues

Frequently asked questions:

1. What to do if I feel unwell or hungry during the fasting period?

It is normal to feel hungry or feel weak during the first few times of fasting. You may develop the habit of eating less in a few days. However, you should probably stop if you feel ill or faint repeatedly.

2. Can I eat whatever I want during the fasting period?

No, you can eat healthy foods but you need to avoid junk, processed, and fried foods. The foods you eat should be rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

3. Is intermittent fasting sustainable?

Intermittent fasting is a flexible diet pattern that makes it easier for people to stick to it. It is believed to be safe to follow intermittent fasting as long as you are in good health, both physically and mentally. However, more research is required to find the long-term sustainability of intermittent fasting.

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