Almost 40% of the adult population in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Diet is a modifiable factor which is known to affect cancer risk and recurrence. Yet, little is known about how diet influences cancer treatment outcomes. Intermittent fasting, characterized by periods of abstaining from foods and beverages alternated with periods of ad libitum intake, when adopted in the context of chemotherapy, has shown promise in pre-clinical models resulting in decreased vomiting, diarrhea, visible discomfort, and improved insulin sensitivity and efficacy of chemotherapeutic treatment. Although intermittent fasting during receipt of chemotherapy has been well-established in pre-clinical models, limited numbers of human studies are now reporting. This review aims to survey the current data examining the effect of intermittent fasting on chemotherapy efficacy, patient treatment outcomes, patient centered outcomes and circulating biomarkers associated with cancer. Available data show that periodic fasting, a form of intermittent fasting, may hold potential to improve effectiveness of chemotherapy, decrease treatment related side effects and cancer promoting factors such as insulin, while ameliorating treatment related decreases in quality of life and daily functioning. Larger controlled periodic fasting trials, including exploration of alternate forms of intermittent fasting, are needed to better elucidate the effect of intermittent fasting on treatment and patient outcomes during chemotherapy.
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