Scientists now believe that a ketogenic diet may help stall the spread of certain types of cancer
The ketogenic diet is nearly 100 years old. Yet scientists are discovering new uses for it every day. Most recently, scientists at the University of Texas in Dallas (UT Dallas), U.S., reported that the diet may help to stall the spread of certain types of cancer.
In the 1920s, doctors first recommended the keto diet for epilepsy patients whose seizures couldn’t be stopped with anti-epilepsy drugs alone. Since then, research has linked keto to positive effects on kidney health, management of diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Now, the UT Dallas study — published in the peer-reviewed journal Cell Reports — has linked keto and blood sugar restriction to limiting the spread of certain types of cancer and tumours.
What the study says
Researchers at UT Dallas used the ketogenic diet to restrict blood sugar levels in mice. Next, they injected the mice with an anti-diabetes drug, to prevent the kidneys from reabsorbing any glucose in the blood. Their finding: though the combination of the diet and the anti-diabetes drug didn’t shrink cancers of the lungs and esophagus in mice, it did manage to check their progress.
“Both the ketogenic diet and the pharmacological restriction of blood glucose by themselves inhibited the further growth of squamous cell carcinoma tumors in mice with lung cancer,” Jung-Whan “Jay” Kim, PhD, corresponding author of the study and an assistant professor of biological sciences at UT Dallas, said on 15 August.
“The key finding of our new study in mice is that a ketogenic diet alone does have some tumor-growth inhibitory effect in squamous cell cancer,” Kim added. “When we combined this with the diabetes drug and chemotherapy, it was even more effective.”
However, Kim and his colleagues reported that the keto diet and drug combination had no effect on non-squamous cell cancers. His finding, in particular, suggests certain tumours might be susceptible to glucose restriction.
Squamous cells are cells on the outermost layer of our skin or epidermis. According to Cancer.org, squamous cell carcinoma usually affects skin that is exposed to the sun.
In medical terminology adeno signifies "related to the glands"; adenocarcinoma is a cancer that usually develops in the mucous glands surrounding the oesophagus or the lungs before spreading to other parts of the body.
Cell by cell
The recent study supports another study by Kim and his colleagues in 2017. In that study, they had indicated that squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a type of cancer, needed glucose to thrive. Kim and his team of investigators took blood samples from 192 SCC of lung or oesophagus cancer patients and 120 lung adenocarcinoma patients for this research. They divided the blood samples into two categories, observing whether their blood sugar was above or below 120mg/dL.
“Surprisingly, we found a robust correlation between higher blood-glucose concentration and worse survival among patients with squamous cell carcinoma,” Kim said. However, there was no such correlation between lung adenocarcinoma.
Other health benefits
Of late, fitness enthusiasts have turned to keto for weight loss - by substituting carbohydrates with fat in the diet, they force the body to use fats for energy. The body produces ketones as part of regular fat metabolism, giving the diet its name.
But weight loss is not all that the diet has to offer.
The diet has been known to help manage the following health conditions:
- Type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Chronic inflammation
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Fatty liver disease
That said, the keto diet isn’t easy to follow. High carb foods like grains, sugars, legumes, rice, potato, candy, juice and fruits are off the table, of course. But so are tomatoes, onions, carrots, pumpkin - anything that caramelises on cooking has enough sugar to be dropped from the diet. New research also shows that eating carbs on cheat days — most good diets have some off days, to prevent the urge to binge or stray from it completely — can be very harmful.
Going on keto can seem like a big sacrifice if you are a foodie, or even if you are someone who takes comfort in food. But if you can stick it out, the latest health science is increasingly giving keto top marks in various departments.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. To know more on this topic, please visit https://www.myupchar.com/en/weightloss/keto-diet-plan-for-weight-loss-fayde-aur-nuksan-in-hindi
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Updated Date: Aug 29, 2019 14:02:45 IST
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