MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Modification of the popular ketogenic diet can have an amazing benefit for patients treating brain tumors. Researchers at the American Academy of Neurology say that this trend in diet, which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, can help starve cancerous tumors of the fuel they need to grow.
The study found that a keto diet is safe and practical for patients who have a certain type of brain tumor called astrocytomas. Scientists believe that brain tumors use sugar from a patient’s diet to survive and grow. The keto diet, however, changes what the body uses as fuel, which can be less appetizing to cancer cells.
“There are not many effective treatments for this type of brain tumor and survival rates are low, so new advances are very welcome,” says study author Roy E. Strowd, MD, MS, MEd, of the Wake Forest School of Medicine a communicated to the media.
“These cancer cells rely on glucose or sugar to divide and grow. From the ketogenic diet it is low in sugar, the body changes what it uses to get energy, instead of carbohydrates, it uses what are called ketones. Normal brain cells can survive with ketones, but the theory is that cancer cells cannot use ketones for energy. “
What is different about the keto diet?
The researchers recruited 25 patients with astrocytomas who had completed treatment with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Each participant followed a modified ketogenic diet that included intermittent fasting two days a week.
The group followed him the normal ketogenic menu during the other five days of the week for eight weeks. This includes eating foods such as bacon, eggs, sour cream, butter, green leafy vegetables and fatty fish. On fasting days, brain cancer patients only ate up to 20 percent of the calorie limit that is normally recommended.
The study authors say their goal was to see if patients could tolerate this diet without suffering any side effects. The results show that 21 of the 25 patients completed the eight-week trial, with about half fully following the diet plan.
Although not everyone adheres strictly to the keto diet, the study authors found that 80% of participants still reached a level where their bodies used fats and proteins as fuel instead of sugar and carbohydrates. In addition, only two people experienced serious side effects, and one of them dealt with non-diet-related problems.
At the end of eight weeks, the researchers discovered both metabolism and brain changes among cancer patients. The team found a decrease in hemoglobin A1c levels, insulin levels and body fat mass. Meanwhile, lean body mass was increasing. In addition, brain scans revealed an increase in ketone concentration and metabolic changes in brain tumors.
“Of course, more studies are needed to determine if this diet can prevent the disease growth of brain tumors and help people live longer, but these results show that diet can be safe for people with brain tumors and produce successful changes in body and brain metabolism, ”concludes Strowd.
The study appears in the journal Neurology.