Saturday, December 4, 2021
HomeHealth CareCan a keto diet treat brain cancer?

Can a keto diet treat brain cancer?

The ketogenic diet is a specialized diet plan that has gained immense popularity over the past few years. However, there is currently a lack of clinical evidence that shows the effects of the ketogenic diet for its use as a cure or control for any type of tumor. People who wish to try the ketogenic diet must first consult with a specialized doctor or dietitian.

Ketogenic diets include low carbohydrate food, usually with restricted protein intake and very high levels of fat. Carbohydrates are broken down into units of glucose in the body to provide energy to the cells. With a low carbohydrate diet, the amount of easily accessible glucose is reduced.

In the ketogenic diet the amount of fats is increased, and it becomes the primary fuel. Fat is metabolized by the liver into ketones that are circulated in the bloodstream.

This diet also impacts the glucose and insulin levels in the body as insulin is primarily released in response to glucose levels in the blood, and by protein (to a lesser extent) which is also reduced in a ketogenic diet. Therefore, the diet reduces post-meal glucose and insulin levels and helps maintain blood glucose levels at the normal range.

This is a complicated diet plan that must be properly followed and can cause certain unpleasant side effect, such as sickness, tiredness and constipation for some people.

Therefore, it must be carefully monitored by a dietitian at a specialist center to ensure that the diet is safe, not unpleasant to eat, and provides all the necessary nutrients that a person needs. The diet was initially developed to help treat people, usually children, with difficult to control epilepsy.

Ketogenic diet and brain tumors

In the last decade, much interest has been focused on exploring the role of the ketogenic diet in managing brain tumors. The work of American cell biologists and German medical physicists have prompted this interest, by recommending ketogenic diets or fasting as a way of curing or controlling tumors.

They have suggested that the brain tumor cells can’t use ketone bodies, the chemicals that are released as a source of energy after a ketogenic diet. The cancer cells feed on glucose or sugar and with a ketogenic diet the primary energy source becomes fat.

However, how impactful it is in controlling and killing the tumor cells is complex as they have the ability to easily adapt to different conditions.

This is the reason why many cancer specialists and scientists are still skeptical that a ketogenic diet can help destroy tumor cells or even slow their growth. Although, there can be a theoretical benefit of this type of diet, presently enough research or evidence is not available to recommend following a ketogenic diet for cancer patients. 

Research in this area is still in the laboratory phase, based on cells in a dish or animal models, particularly rodents. Some studies have described the anti-brain cancer effect of ketones and the KD in several rodent models.

It showed that energy-restricted KDs (ERKD) limited the growth of orthotopically transplanted brain tumors in animal models. Such findings provide support for investigating the utility of ketones and ketogenic diet in patients with primary brain malignancies.

However, the research in humans is limited and studies are more focused on whether patients can follow the diet and not whether the diet can make a difference to disease outlook. 

Should a brain cancer patient follow a ketogenic diet?

Ketogenic diets have been recommended as adjuvant cancer therapy by some doctors, specifically as metabolic therapy for malignant gliomas.

Although, some of the strongest results of keto diet’s possible benefits have been reported with glioblastoma, a very aggressive brain cancer, it hasn’t provided enough data for other kinds of brain cancer.

According to a study on the reported cases of glioma patients, some patients responded to treatment with KD. The value of ketones for the treatment of humans with brain malignancies is yet to be proven in clinical trials.

The current lack of standard KD protocols has made a comparison of different trials difficult and unreliable. There is a need for rigorous diet management and objective measures of ketosis to fairly evaluate the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet as therapy for aggressive gliomas. However, despite the lack of evidence on the ketogenic diet treatment’s efficacy for malignant brain tumors, a person may choose to follow the diet.

But it is highly advisable to do so only under the supervision and guidance of the doctor and a trained dietitian. This is because the diet may affect the standard treatment and interfere with observations of the patient’s condition by the medical team. Also, it can lead to certain side effects, such as weight loss, constipation, and fatigue.

Conventional treatments such as surgery and radiotherapy are the gold standard for brain cancer care. The brain tumor surgery cost in India is highly affordable in comparison to other countries but with as good as success rates.

Most Popular