Heathy eating has proven important in controlling diabetes and heart disease, a breakthrough new study shows it can dramatically improve cancer outcomes in humans.
The new research shows that restricting the intake and levels of the amino acid methionine can significantly improve positive results from chemotherapy and radiation treatment and improve cancer outcome.
Methionine occurs naturally in many foods but is found in very high concentrations in red meat and eggs.
Methionine restriction has already been associated with both anti-ageing and weight loss — this study confirms it could be a game changer for people undergoing chemo and radiation treatment.
Information from Medical News Today:
Dramatic Effects of Methionine Restriction
The study, published in the journal Nature, found restricting intake of an amino acid found in red meat and eggs significantly enhanced cancer treatment in mice, slowing tumor growth.
“These are very strong effects, and they are effects that are as strong as we would see with drugs that work,” said lead researcher Jason Locasale, an associate professor at Duke University’s School of Medicine.
“What this study is showing is that there are many situations where a drug by itself doesn’t work, but if you combine the drug with the diet, it works, or the radiation therapy doesn’t work well, but if you combine… with the diet, it works well,” he told AFP.
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The study focused on restricting intake of the amino acid methionine which is key to a process called one-carbon metabolism that helps cancer cells grow.
‘Starving the cancer’
The researchers first tested methionine restriction in healthy mice to confirm it was having the desired effects on metabolism and then moved to testing it in mice with colorectal cancer and soft tissue sarcomas.
They found that a low dose of chemotherapy, which on its own had no effect on colorectal cancer, led to “marked inhibition of tumor growth” when combined with methionine restriction.
Similarly, combining methionine restriction with radiation therapy in the case of the soft tissue sarcoma reduced tumor growth.
“You’re starving the cancer cells of certain nutrients, at a very basic level,” explained Locasale.
Food Based Medicine
“What it’s showing is that there are very interesting interactions between the food we eat, how it changes metabolism… and then how those changes in cellular metabolism might have an effect on tumor growth.”
Locasale and his colleagues extended the research by testing a methionine restricted diet in six healthy humans and found that the effect on human metabolism appeared similar to that seen in mice.
Locasale said he hoped to eventually test the research in humans with cancer, but noted that nutrition research often struggles for funding because it proposes treatments that are not easily monetizable.
Still, he said the work adds to a body of research that suggests diet may play an important role in cancer treatment.
Read the Nature Journal study at Dietary methionine influences therapy in mouse cancer models and alters human metabolism.