The small study found that the diet was safe and feasible for people with brain tumors called astrocytomas
A modified ketogenic diet may be worth exploring for people with brain tumors, according to a new study published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The diet is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. The small study found that the diet was safe and feasible for people with brain tumors called astrocytomas. All of the people had completed radiation treatment and chemotherapy.
The diet led to changes in the metabolism in the body and the brain. The study was not designed to determine whether the diet could slow down tumor growth or improve survival.
“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,” said study author Roy E. Strowd, MD, MS, MEd, of Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. “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. Normal brain cells can survive on ketones, but the theory is that cancer cells cannot use ketones for energy.”
By the end of the study, changes in the metabolism in the body and the brain were seen. Hemoglobin A1c levels, insulin levels, and fat body mass all decreased. Lean body mass increased. Specialized brain scans that detect changes in brain metabolites showed an increase in concentrations of ketones and metabolic changes in the tumor.
“Of course more studies are needed to determine whether this diet can prevent the growth of brain tumors and help people live longer, but 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,” Strowd said.