Can VLCKD prevent cancer?
Ketogenic diets (KDs) are emerging as effective therapies for several chronic diseases, including cancer. However, concerns regarding safety and adherence may prevent clinicians from prescribing KDs. We hypothesised that a KD does not negatively affect blood lipid profile compared to a lower-fat diet in ovarian and endometrial cancer patients, and that KD subjects would demonstrate acceptable adherence.
Cancer is most commonly treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Many different diet strategies have been studied, but none has been particularly effective. Interestingly, some early research suggests that a very low carb ketogenic diet may help. Many cancer therapies are designed to target the biological differences between cancer cells and normal cells.
Nearly all cancer cells share one common trait: They feed off carbs or blood sugar in order to grow and multiply
When you follow a ketogenic diet, some of the standard metabolic processes are altered, and your blood sugar levels go way down. Basically, this is claimed to “starve” the cancer cells of fuel.
As in all living cells, the long-term effect of this “starvation” may be that the cancer cells will grow more slowly, decrease in size, or possibly even die.
It seems possible that a ketogenic diet could help reduce the progression of cancer because it causes a rapid decrease in blood sugar levels
A ketogenic diet can lower blood sugar levels. This may help reduce tumour growth and even starve cancer cells of energy.
Other benefits of a ketogenic diet to treat cancer
Several other processes may explain how a ketogenic diet can aid cancer treatment. Firstly, reducing carbs can quickly lower calorie intake, reducing the energy available to the cells in your body.In turn, this may slow tumour growth and the cancer’s progression. In addition, ketogenic diets can provide other benefits.
Insulin is an anabolic hormone. This means that insulin makes cells, including cancerous cells, grow when it’s present. Therefore, lower insulin levels may slow tumour growth
Cancer cells can’t use ketones as fuel. Research in animals shows that ketones may reduce tumour size and growth
Beyond lowering blood sugar, the ketogenic diet may also help treat cancer via other mechanisms. These include lowering calories, reducing insulin levels, and increasing ketones.
he ketogenic diet and cancer in humans
Despite the promising evidence in animals, research in humans is only just emerging and largely limited to case studies. Currently, the limited research seems to show that a ketogenic diet may reduce tumour size and the progression rate of certain cancers.
Brain cancer studies
Much of the research on cancer looks at glioblastomas, which are particularly aggressive brain tumours.
A 2010 case study marked the first time that research was published on the effects of treating a glioblastoma with a combination of standard therapy and a restricted ketogenic diet. The case study followed a 65-year-old woman. Following surgery, she received a very low calorie ketogenic diet. During this time, the tumour’s progression slowed. However, 10 weeks after returning to a normal diet, she experienced a significant increase in tumour growth
Results from later research are also promising. Almost all of the later research has concluded that a ketogenic diet leads to reduced glucose levels. In addition, the studies showed that a ketogenic diet is safe and may help to enhance the effects of traditional cancer treatments
In another study, 3 out of 5 people with a glioma experienced complete remission after adopting a ketogenic diet combined with radiation or chemotherapy. The other two participants, though, experienced a progression in the disease after they stopped the ketogenic diet. Similar case reports from 1995 examined the reactions to a ketogenic diet in two girls who were undergoing treatment for advanced brain cancer.
Researchers found that glucose uptake was decreased in the tumours of both girls. One of the girls reported improved quality of life and remained on the diet for 12 months. During that time, her disease showed no further progression
Studies of other cancers
Following a ketogenic diet for 12 weeks significantly increased the physical function of women with ovarian or endometrial cancer.
Some participants in the study followed the high fiber, low fat American Cancer Society (ACS) diet instead. The women who followed the ketogenic diet were more likely to report that they could readily complete activities such as climbing stairs or moving a table
They also experienced other benefits, such as increased energy and decreased cravings for starchy foods and “fast food fats” like pizza
The ketogenic diet may also help improve the body composition of people with various types of cancer.
In a study of 81 people, researchers observed benefits such as reduced fat mass in people with rectal or breast cancer and the preservation of skeletal muscle mass.
Study participants experienced these benefits even though they were also undergoing radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of both. These standard cancer treatments have been known to negatively affect body composition and appetite