Training and Eating to Fight Cancer

Liver cancer outcomes may be improved with diet and exercise in animals

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Eating well and exercising hard continues to pay off, even in fighting a disease as serious as liver cancer.

A new study found that a healthy low-fat diet and regular exercise together played an important role in helping rats battle liver cancer.

"Balance life with good nutrition and exercise."

The study, led by Marco Silva, a doctoral student from the Institute of Biosciences at São Paulo State University, aimed to see how swimming affected cancer growth in rats.

Though the study hasn't yet been done on humans, its findings could be important for future research.

"This study is the first to demonstrate that there is a beneficial effect of exercise training against progression of liver carcinogenesis in rats fed a low-fat diet, but not in rats fed a high-fat diet," said Luis Barbisan, PhD, a co-author of the study and researcher in the Department of Morphology at the Institute of Biosciences of São Paulo State University.

Dr. Barbisan said the high-fat regimen used in the study mimicked Western diets.

For the study, researchers induced liver cancer in a total of 40 rats.

After two weeks, the animals were randomly divided into four groups and placed on either a low-fat or high-fat diet for eight weeks.

The low-fat diet was 6 percent fat and more than half carbohydrates while the high-fat diet had 21 percent fat, 42 percent carbs and 24 percent protein.

Following the dietary portion of the study, half of the rats in each group were trained to swim five days a week for another eight weeks.

After the first week, weighted washers were attached to the rats. Throughout the study period, the rats swam longer and the weights were increased.

Blood samples from the rats were then collected to measure glucose, cholesterol and fatty acids levels.

The researchers found that the rats fed the high-fat diet had lower body weight compared to those that were fed the low-fat diet as the cancer grew.

The study also found:

  • The average weight of the liver in rats after the swim training was similar in both groups.
  • Body fat and total cholesterol were higher in the untrained group fed the high fat diet compared to those that ate the low-fat diet. Swimming helped lower body weight and fat in both diet groups.
  • The activity also normalized cholesterol level in the high-fat diet group and reduced the number of tumors in the low-fat diet group.
  • Body weight, total fat and total cholesterol were reduced in the swim groups compared to the untrained group.
  • Swimming reduced the number of tumors in rats with a lower fat intake.
  • Regular exercise also improved cholesterol among those eating a high-fat diet.

The study was supported by Fundação para o Desenvolvimento da UNESP.

The study was published online September 10 in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 19, 2012
Last Updated:
September 20, 2012