The Ketogenic Diet’s Effects on Cancer Patients

Thumyat Noe ’23

Figure 1: A platter of foods consistent with the Ketogenic diet guidelines: high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates.

Researchers determined that diet plays a crucial role in increasing or decreasing the risk of cancer. For instance, previous studies show that high levels of insulin and glucose in the blood can increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Therefore, cancer researchers are interested in developing diets that can improve the well-being and prognosis of cancer patients. A ketogenic diet, which consists of high fat, low carbohydrate, and adequate protein regimen, could be a promising nutritional therapy. A ketogenic diet lowers levels of insulin which is a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. A decrease in insulin levels results in reduced activity of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase, a key enzyme that mediates cancerous pathways. Past studies also suggest that a ketogenic diet improves the quality of life in cancer patients. However, not much is known about how a ketogenic diet regimen should be optimized for adult cancer patients. In this study, researchers from Osaka University examine the clinical effects of a ketogenic diet regimen.

Researchers recruited cancer patients without diabetes mellitus who could ingest foods orally to participate in this study. Researchers then consulted registered dieticians to develop an appropriate ketogenic diet regime which became more flexible as the intervention came to an end. Throughout the study, researchers evaluated each participants’ tumor size with positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) which is a technique that allows visualization of tumor sizes. 

After the ketogenic diet, participants’ fasting blood sugar and insulin levels significantly declined. This suggests that a ketogenic diet can decrease cancer risk as high blood sugar and insulin levels are often associated with an increased risk of cancer. In some patients, the size of multiple liver metastases decreased. None of the participants developed severe adverse effects associated with ketogenic dieting. Several participants’ tumor size also decreased by the end of the study. Future studies could implement a randomized controlled trial to substantiate the effects of a ketogenic diet on cancer patients, as there was no control group in this study. Overall, the results of this study suggest that a ketogenic diet could be beneficial for patients with various advanced cancers. 

Works Cited: 

[1] K. Hagihara, et al., Promising effect of a new ketogenic diet regimen in patients with advanced cancer. Nutrients 12, 1-12 (2020). doi: 10.3390/nu12051473. 

[2] Image retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Keto_meal.jpg

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