KETOGENIC DIET FOR CANCER

Cancer, in very simple terms, is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancer may develop when the body's normal control mechanism stops working, old cells that would normally die and be replaced, do not die and instead grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. In most types of cancer, these extra cells group together and form a mass of cancerous tissue known as a tumor.
 
Cancer is not one, but many diseases or a collection of related diseases. But in all types of cancer, cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. But the similarity ends there, a breast cancer cell is very different from a lung cancer cell or prostate cancer cell. This is how metastatic cancers are identified. Metastasis is the spread of cancer cells to new areas of the body through the lymphatic system or bloodstream. If a liver cancer cell is found outside the liver, or a breast cancer cell is found in tissues away from breast tissue, then that form of cancer is said to be metastatic, it has spread from it's origination point.

MOST COMMON TYPES OF CANCER

  • Breast Cancer - A cancer that forms in the cells of the breast.
  • Prostate Cancer - Cancer that forms in a man's prostate, the gland that produces seminal fluid.
  • Basal Cell Cancer - The most common type of skin cancer that begins in the basal cells.
  • Melanoma - The most serious type of skin cancer.
  • Colon Cancer - A cancer of the colon or rectum, located at the end of the digestive tract.
  • Lung Cancer - A cancer that begins in the lungs and most often occurs in people who smoke.
  • Leukemia - A cancer of blood-forming tissues, hindering the body's ability to fight infection.
  • Lymphoma - A cancer of the lymphatic system.
 
Many of these cancers form solid tumors, which are masses of cancerous tissue. Cancers of the blood, such as leukemias, generally do not form tumors.

CANCER RESEARCH RELATED TO DIET

german cancer scientist
In 1923 a German biochemist Otto Warburg, hypothesized that “the primary cause of cancer was a dysfunctional metabolic process causing cancer cells to utilize large amounts of energy (glucose).” At the time, his theory was considered controversial and implausible, but over the last decade his theory has sparked new interest in the relationship between sugar consumption and tumor cells. Nutrition and cancer: A review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet.
 
Warburg’s discovery, known as The Warburg Effect, suggests that cancer cells take up an excess of glucose and convert it to lactate for energy (ATP) production. This dependence on blood glucose allows modern day oncologists to use positron emission tomography (PET) scans to locate tumors by mixing radiolabeled dye with sugar (glucose).

Within months of Warburg’s glucose/cancer discovery, the Ketogenic Diet was discovered to be beneficial in the treatment of epilepsy. The Ketogenic Diet was designed to mimic the biological effects of starvation on the body, when it was discovered that fasting helped to relieve otherwise difficult to control seizures.

WHAT IS THE KETOGENIC DIET?

The ketogenic diet is an extremely low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins diet. The ketogenic (or keto) diet consists of high fat foods, plus foods that contain a moderate amount of protein, and a very low amount of carbohydrates.
keto diet fight cancer
​Normally, your body gets its main source of energy (glucose/sugar) from carbohydrates. The ketogenic diet eliminates most carbs and deprives your body of glucose, inducing a state of "ketosis." During ketosis, your body is forced to break down stored fat instead of sugar to produce an alternative source of energy.
​During the 1920s, the ketogenic diet was used almost exclusively to treat epiliptic patients. A renewed interest in the 1990s saw the keto diet as a therapy for conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy. More recent studies are beginning to examine the therapeutic potential of the keto diet for other conditions, such as cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome, and Alzheimer's disease.

BENEFITS OF THE KETOGENIC DIET

​For most people, the keto diet will result in weight loss, but this might not be the healthiest or easiest way to do it. When your body burns fat because it is starved of carbs, it makes ketones. Ketones are a type of acid made by your liver and then sent into your bloodstream.

​Too many ketones can lead to dehydration and alter the chemical balance of your blood. The downside, eliminating entire food groups is difficult and can also be hard to stick with long-term.
Compare Keto diet to others
​There are a number of different types of ketogenic diets with variations in the level of carbs and protein allowed in the diet and/or the amount of time someone is looking to spend in ketosis. Ketone bodies produced from burning fat for fuel have been shown to have potent weight loss effects, help lower blood glucose levels and reduce people's reliance on diabetes medication.

THE KETOGENIC DIET HAS ALSO SHOWN EVIDENCE OF HAVING BENEFITS ON:

  • Reducing high blood pressure.
  • Reducing triglyceride levels.
  • Raising HDL “good” cholesterol levels.
  • Improving mental performance.  

THE KETOGENIC DIET IN CANCER THERAPY

​The Ketogenic Diet has recently been proposed as an adjuvant therapy in cancer treatment in hopes that the diet will target the Warburg Effect and reduce or eliminate available glucose. 

“BASED ON THE RESULTS OF RIGOROUS PRECLINICAL AND CLINICAL STUDIES PERFORMED THUS FAR, THE KETOGENIC DIET WOULD APPEAR TO BE A PROMISING AND POWERFUL OPTION FOR ADJUVANT THERAPY FOR A RANGE OF CANCERS. CANCER-SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS AWAIT THE FINDINGS OF RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED CLINICAL TRIALS.”  KETOGENIC DIET IN CANCER THERAPY 2018

The connection between cancer and sugar became apparent in the early 1920s. In 1922, A. Braunstein noted that “glucose disappeared from the urine of patients with diabetes after they were diagnosed with cancer, suggesting that glucose is recruited to cancerous areas where it is consumed at higher than normal rates.” This, within short months of research by Nobel laureate Otto Warburg who found that cancer cells thrive on glycolysis. Ketogenic Diets and Cancer: Emerging Evidence 2017

HUMAN STUDIES: KETOGENIC DIETS AND CANCER

always eat healthy
​The clinical success of the ketogenic diet in animal models has increased the interest of adopting the diet for patients with cancer. However, well-controlled studies of the effect of a ketogenic diet on cancer have yet to be completed, although many such studies are underway.
 
Most human data come from case reports and small studies, and though the results are mixed, most studies suggest a potential benefit. Importantly, all in-human studies to date show that the ketogenic diet is safe, with few adverse events. Most side effects that may occur are transient and mild and include fatigue, constipation, or diarrhea. One study found that low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels increased after healthy obese adults adopted a ketogenic diet for 6 months. Another study of the ketogenic diet for epilepsy found similar results, with cholesterol levels progressively rising during 1 year of the diet.

FINAL THOUGHT

According to the cited study Ketogenic Diets and Cancer: Emerging Evidence “combining a ketogenic diet with standard chemotherapeutic and radiotherapeutic options may help improve tumor response, although more research is needed.”
 
Preclinical data suggest that the ketogenic diet may be an effective adjunct to cancer treatment, though some cancer types, such as kidney cancer, may not benefit. No in-human studies have found that the ketogenic diet is harmful to patients, even while undergoing conventional treatment, though a slight rise in cholesterol levels may occur.
 
NOTE: Cancer patients who wish to adopt the ketogenic diet should seek the help of a nutritionist to ensure that their micronutrient needs are satisfied and that they are consuming the appropriate proportions of macronutrients. Patients may need to supplement their diet with vitamins, minerals, or other micronutrient supplements depending on their dietary patterns.
 
Summary: Based on the conclusions of all cited studies, ketogenic diets used to fight cancer are worth further exploration, both in the laboratory and clinically. Patients wishing to undertake a ketogenic diet during therapy should receive dietary counselling to avoid common mistakes and optimize success.
 
To learn more about Cancer and the Ketogenic Diet, see:
 

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