A high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet boosts recovery in people undergoing treatment for brain tumors, according to a study published Wednesday by the journal Neurology.
The ketogenic, or keto, diet, which generally consists of meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and good oils, is safe for patients with astrocytomas, according to experts.
Participants in the study who finished radiation treatment and chemotherapy and altered their diets saw changes in their body’s and brain’s metabolism.
While the diet had these effects, the researchers cautioned that the trial was not designed to establish if the diet reduces tumour development or improves survival in patients with brain tumours.
“These cancer cells rely on glucose, or sugar, to divide and grow. Since the ketogenic diet is low in sugar, the body changes what it uses for energy — instead of carbohydrates, it uses what are called ketones,” study co-author Dr. Roy E. Strowd said in a press release.
“Normal brain cells can survive on ketones, but the theory is that cancer cells cannot use ketones for energy,” said Strowd,a neurologist and oncologist at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The diet has been linked with weight loss, as well as reduced blood sugar in people with diabetes, and it has been found to reduce seizure activity in children with epilepsy and improve symptoms in people with mental health disorders.
For this study, Strowd and his colleagues monitored 25 patients with astrocytomas for eight weeks on a form of ketogenic diet called the modified Atkins diet with intermittent fasting.
Bacon, eggs, heavy cream, butter, leafy green vegetables, and fish were among the items consumed by participants. They followed the regimen five days a week and practised intermittent fasting the other two, with the help of a dietician.
Twenty-one of the original volunteers finished the trial, with 12 adhering to the diet religiously throughout.
Urine tests revealed that 80 percent of the individuals’ bodies had progressed to the point where they were predominantly utilising fats and protein for fuel rather than carbs or sugars.
By the conclusion of the research, individuals who adhered to the regimen had lower haemoglobin A1c, or blood sugar, levels, as well as lower insulin levels and fat body mass, while lean body mass rose.
According to the researchers, specialised brain scans that detect changes in brain metabolism revealed an increase in ketones concentrations and metabolic alterations in individuals’ tumours, which may imply that they develop utilising energy from carbohydrates rather than fats or ketones.
Two of the 21 patients who finished the trial experienced significant adverse effects, although only one was likely connected to the diet.
“There are not a lot of effective treatments for these types of brain tumors, and survival rates are low, so any new advances are very welcome,” Strowd said.
“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,” he said.