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Can A Ketogenic Diet Lower Cancer Risk?

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A ketogenic diet is high in fat and low in carbs, prompting the body to use fats instead of sugar as a source of energy. In fighting cancer, it specifically targets cancerous cells that have a damaged metabolic cycle. Since these cells can only feed off glucose, a ketogenic diet may effectively be able to starve tumor cells, thus halting the progression of cancer.

For about a decade now, a ketogenic diet has been advocated by several healthcare sources as a reliable way of reducing tumor growth and improving the quality of life in cancer patients. A keto diet is high in fats and very low in carbohydrates, forcing the body to use fats as a source of energy instead. Apart from reducing tumor size in cancer, the diet has also been used to treat epilepsy for several decades now.1

A ketogenic diet has more fat than carbohydrate components, prompting the body to use fats instead of sugar as its primary source of energy – this is what happens during periods of starvation. The fats are broken down into ketone bodies, which are then excreted through the urine. The process of energy breakdown in a cell happens in the small structures known as mitochondria – the cell’s major powerhouses. The mitochondria in cancer cells are damaged, which means they cannot use fats as a source of energy. Since cancer cells can only feed off glucose, a ketogenic diet may effectively be able to starve tumor cells, thus halting the progression of cancer.2

Some types of cancer develop due to a condition called insulin resistance, in which cells don’t respond to insulin, a hormone required to digest sugars effectively.3 By adopting a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, the role of insulin is significantly reduced. One case study found some promising results: A patient’s brain tumor was no longer detected in scans after only two months of following a strict ketogenic diet. However, signs of a tumor did reappear when the patient discontinued the diet, pointing to the necessity of sticking to the ketogenic plan indefinitely.4

In fighting cancer, a ketogenic diet specifically targets cancer cells that have a damaged metabolic cycle. Healthy cells in the body are not affected. The diet has even been tested on pediatric cancer patients and showed potential in treating the cancer when used alongside traditional treatments and nutritional supplements.5 But researchers caution that such a diet is not a replacement but only an adjuvant to other treatment methods.6

Lab studies have found that ketone bodies can inhibit the growth of cancer cells, which may suggest its potential in the prevention of cancer.7 Since a ketogenic diet produces ketone bodies as a metabolic by-product, it could effectively reduce the incidence of cancer. However, much more research needs to be done to support this theory.

A ketogenic diet can also help people lose weight. This in turn can effectively reduce their risk of cancer since obesity often leads to insulin resistance and diabetes.8

Still, while the ketogenic diet has been studied extensively in its role for treating cancer, there’s still little information on whether it can actually help prevent cancer. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting on a ketogenic diet, especially since it can have some side effects, including nausea and, if followed over a long period of time, the formation of kidney stones.9

References   [ + ]

1.Freeman, John M., Eric H. Kossoff, and Adam L. Hartman. “The ketogenic diet: one decade later.” Pediatrics 119, no. 3 (2007): 535-543.
2.Allen, Bryan G., Sudershan K. Bhatia, Carryn M. Anderson, Julie M. Eichenberger-Gilmore, Zita A. Sibenaller, Kranti A. Mapuskar, Joshua D. Schoenfeld, John M. Buatti, Douglas R. Spitz, and Melissa A. Fath. “Ketogenic diets as an adjuvant cancer therapy: History and potential mechanism.” Redox biology 2 (2014): 963-970.
3.Stoll, B. A. “Western nutrition and the insulin resistance syndrome: a link to breast cancer.” European journal of clinical nutrition 53, no. 2 (1999): 83-87.
4.Zuccoli, Giulio, Norina Marcello, Anna Pisanello, Franco Servadei, Salvatore Vaccaro, Purna Mukherjee, and Thomas N. Seyfried. “Metabolic management of glioblastoma multiforme using standard therapy together with a restricted ketogenic diet: Case Report.” Nutrition & metabolism 7, no. 1 (2010): 1
5.Nebeling, Linda C., and Edith Lerner. “Implementing a ketogenic diet based on medium-chain triglyceride oil in pediatric patients with cancer.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 95, no. 6 (1995): 693-697.
6.Abdelwahab, Mohammed G., Kathryn E. Fenton, Mark C. Preul, Jong M. Rho, Andrew Lynch, Phillip Stafford, and Adrienne C. Scheck. “The ketogenic diet is an effective adjuvant to radiation therapy for the treatment of malignant glioma.” PloS one 7, no. 5 (2012): e36197.
7.Magee, BARBARA A., N. I. C. H. O. L. A. S. Potezny, Allan M. Rofe, and R. A. Conyers. “The inhibition of malignant cell growth by ketone bodies.” Aust J Exp Biol Med Sci 57, no. 5 (1979): 529-539.
8.Bianchini, Franca, Rudolf Kaaks, and Harri Vainio. “Overweight, obesity, and cancer risk.” The lancet oncology 3, no. 9 (2002): 565-574.
9.Kossoff, Eric H., Paula L. Pyzik, Susan L. Furth, Heather D. Hladky, John M. Freeman, and Eileen PG Vining. “Kidney stones, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, and the ketogenic diet.” Epilepsia 43, no. 10 (2002): 1168-1171.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

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