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Friday, September 7, 2007

Calorically Restricted Ketogenic Diet Might Prolong Life Of Brain Cancer Patients

This article is about the research done by the Department of Biology, Boston College, USA and it is an eye opener.

“Malignant brain cancer persists as a major disease of morbidity and mortality in adults and is the second leading cause of cancer death in children. Many current therapies for malignant brain tumors fail to provide long-term management because they ineffectively target tumor cells while negatively impacting the health and vitality of normal brain cells. In contrast to brain tumor cells, which lack metabolic flexibility and are largely dependent on glucose for growth and survival, normal brain cells can metabolize both glucose and ketone bodies for energy. This study evaluated the efficacy of KetoCal®, a new nutritionally balanced high fat/low carbohydrate ketogenic diet for children with epilepsy, on the growth and vascularity of a malignant mouse astrocytoma (CT-2A) and a human malignant glioma (U87-MG).”

Studies were carried out on mice that were implanted orthotopically with malignant brain tumors. One group was given KetoCal® in regular or restricted amounts to reduce calories and the other group was fed an unrestricted high carbohydrate diet like the usual American diet. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of the restricted ketogenic diet, proving that this diet is beneficial in starving the cancer cells, reducing further growth and reducing the size of the tumors. It would appear that the cancer cells are less able to use ketones for energy than glucose. Glucose levels in the blood were greatly reduced and ketone levels were increased.

My Conclusion: If a ketogenic (low-carb) diet starves cancer cells in the brain, surely it would starve any other cancer cells in the body as well? Would that then make this a good diet for people with colon or breast cancer, or lymphoma for instance? This also makes one think that such a diet would be beneficial in preventing such cancer cells from forming in the first place in susceptible individuals. The low-carb, ketogenic diet could then perhaps be called a “cancer prevention diet”.

This was an amazing study with very interesting and hopeful results for those people suffering from cancer. Kudos to those clever people who carried it out!!


Izzy said...

While this research is very interesting and provides an obvious direction for future study, your headline is misleading: the research was done on mice with artificially-induced tumors, not people with naturally-arising ones. No human "Brain Cancer Patients" were involved at all, never mind experiencing "prolong[ed] life", and there's no way to tell for sure that the results would be as conclusive in humans until more studies are done.

Also, since the general focus of your blog is on "low carb" diets, it's important to emphasize that the diet involved here is much more extreme than the low-carb weight loss diets with which most of your readers are familiar. Ketogenic diets for epileptic kids provide 90% of calories from fat--not something that heart-disease-prone adults should consider lightly.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for your correct observations, Izzy. Good point! I will change that heading to be more accurate.

Just today I was reading again that glucose/sugar feeds cancer cells. With that in mind - "I say, Starve them!" Seriously, though, I do understand where you are coming from and certainly the diet you describe for epileptic children is more extreme that Atkins and is more like the Fat Fast that I outline in More Splendid Low-Carbing. This regimen is used very carefully and intermittently with Atkins by people who are extremely resistant to weight loss. It can be dangerous for "normal" people who lose weight on regular low-carb diets. This diet was devised by Dr. Atkins as a last resort for people struggling to lose weight even on ketogenic diets. Believe it or not, I am such a person and have occasionally done this diet, with good results, but I dislike it. I have done it for no longer than about 3 days in a row and usually I will drop 1 to 2 lbs in that week. Someone who loses normally would lose something like 6 lbs in that time and that rapid weight loss is too dangerous, perhaps causing electrolyte imbalances. That said, there is a very fine balance for me when doing that regimen. If I go over 1000 calories, I will gain weight on a fat fast!

In the absence of refined carbohydrates and in the environment of low carbohydrate intake, higher fat intake is okay (just need to read Gary Taubes' latest book with all the research and studies touted, called "Good Calories, Bad Calories"), but you are right in a normal world people who are heart-disease prone, might combine the fat and higher carbohydrate eating too often - and that is a recipe for disaster. In an ideal situation, the person with a tendency for heart disease sticks to low-carbing properly all the time - then, it is a more heart healthy diet for that person than a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet according to the late Dr. Atkins and several studies that have been done. Still, that switch in diet, if it is to be made, is not a decision to be taken lightly, because of the aforementioned disaster scenario.