Could a modified ketogenic (KD) diet be beneficial for those who have been diagnosed with a brain tumor? According to a recent study from the American Academy of Neurology, there are positive findings for those who have been diagnosed with a brain tumor and adopted a modified ketogenic diet. The study was not initially designed to determine whether the diet could slow the growth rate of brain tumors, called astrocytoma, or improve survival, rather it was developed to observe if the diet was safe and feasible for those with brain tumors as an existing condition.
Astrocytoma is a type of cancer that stems from cells called astrocytes, which support nerve cells, as defined by the Mayo Clinic. Interestingly, in the adult brain the glucose storage molecule glycogen is primarily localized to astrocytes. The study involved 25 people with astrocytomas, all of whom had completed their treatment plan (radiation and chemotherapy). During the study’s eight-week period, the patients were instructed to follow a single version of the keto diet, referred to as a modified Atkins (low-carb) diet. The diet includes foods such as bacon, eggs, heavy cream, butter, leafy green vegetables, and fish. Participants met with a dietician at the start of the study and then every two weeks. Five days a week they followed the modified Atkins diet, which combined carbohydrate restriction with high amounts of fats. Two days a week they fasted, eating a maximum of 20% of their recommended daily calorie amount.
A total of 21 people completed the study, and 48% followed the diet completely. However, urine tests showed that 80% of participants reached the level where their body was primarily using fats and protein for fuel, rather than carbohydrates, a state known as “ketosis.” The results of this study, which were published in an online issue of the journal Neurology, showed that this eating style was well-tolerated among the majority of the participants. What was interesting though, was that the study authors noted several positive changes which occurred in both the body and brain. These changes included a decrease in hemoglobin A1c levels, insulin levels, and body fat mass, along with an increase in lean body mass, as well as concentrations of ketones and metabolic changes within the tumor.
Since glucose causes cancer cells to divide and multiply, the research team was pleased to find that the focus on the low-carb, low-sugar keto diet, produced ketones in the body, which cancer cells cannot utilize for energy. Although more studies are needed to determine whether the modified keto diet can prevent the growth of brain tumors, these results show that the diet can be safe for people with brain tumors and successfully produce changes in the metabolism of the body and the brain.
“There have been other studies that have looked into a possible association between the keto diet and brain health,” says Savitri Jones, CEO of Ketosports, a leader in ketone supplementation design and manufacturing. “These studies were focused on the ability of the brain to use ketones as an alternative energy source as opposed to carbohydrates which convert into glucose for energy in the adult brain. The findings showed positive results with the brain being able to metabolize ketones as an alternative source of energy, as opposed to carbohydrates. Furthermore, a study published in the International Journal of Cancer showed that the administration of Ketone supplements elicited anticancer effects in-vitro and in-vivo using male inbred VM mice, independent of glucose levels or calorie restriction. It’s promising research for a product and segment with so many possibilities.”
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