July 7 (UPI) – A high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet promotes recovery in people undergoing treatment for brain tumors, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.
The ketogenic or ketogenic diet, which typically includes meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy oils, is safe for people with brain tumors called astrocytomas, the researchers said.
Study participants who had completed radiation and chemotherapy and had changed their diet saw changes in metabolism in the body and brain.
While these effects were observed with diet, the researchers warn that the study was not designed to determine whether diet slowed tumor growth or improved survival in people treated for brain tumors.
“These cancer cells depend on glucose or sugar to divide and grow. Since the ketogenic diet is low in sugar, the body changes its energy requirements – instead of carbohydrates, it uses so-called ketones. ”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 the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC
The diet has been linked to weight loss as well as reduced blood sugar in people with diabetes, and was found to reduce seizure activity in children with epilepsy and improve symptoms in people with mental disorders.
For this study, Strowd and colleagues tracked 25 people with astrocytomas who followed a ketogenic diet for eight weeks – the modified Atkins intermittent fasting diet.
Participants’ diets included foods such as bacon, eggs, cream, butter, leafy green vegetables, and fish. They followed the schedule five days a week and practiced intermittent fasting on the other two under the guidance of a nutritionist.
Of the first participants, 21 completed the study and 12 followed the diet completely throughout.
Urine tests showed that 80% of participants reached a level where their bodies mainly used fats and proteins for fuel instead of carbohydrates or sugars.
At the end of the study, those who followed the diet saw decreases in hemoglobin A1c or blood sugar levels, as well as insulin levels and fat mass, while lean body mass increased.
Specialized brain scans that detect changes in brain metabolism showed increases in levels of ketones and metabolic changes in the participants’ tumors, which could suggest they are growing with energy from sugars but not fats or ketones, the researchers said.
Of the 21 patients who completed the study, two people had serious side effects during the study, but only one of them was possibly diet related.
“There aren’t many effective treatments for these types of brain tumors, and survival rates are low, so new advances are very welcome,” said Strowd.
“These results show that the diet can be safe for people with brain tumors and can successfully effect changes in the metabolism of the body and brain,” he said.