Researchers in the medical and scientific communities are interested in the possible benefits of a ketogenic diet for the treatment of cancerous tumors.
This interest stems from the so-called “Warburg Effect,” named after Nobel Prize winner, Otto Heinrich Warburg. Warburg’s research in the 1920s showed that tumor cells tend to favor glycolysis for metabolism instead of the energy pathways usually preferred by most healthy cells.
Based on this discovery, researchers hypothesized that depriving cancerous cells of the glucose needed for glycolysis may be beneficial in the treatment of certain types of tumors.
And, since the ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate diet which seeks to induce nutritional ketosis as an alternative to glycolysis, it has become an area of interest for cancer researchers.
To compile the latest findings, three researchers from the University Hospital for Pediatrics of the Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg Austria reviewed the most recent studies into the ketogenic diet and cancer and published their findings in the journal, Aging.
What the Study Found
The researchers represented their findings with the following chart:
As explained in the chart’s legend, the color green indicates an anti-tumor effect was found in a study, blue indicates no effect was found one way or the other, orange indicates severe side effects with the treatment and red indicates a pro-tumor effect.
The “+R” label denotes a ketogenic diet was used in combination with calorie restriction and “+T” means a keto diet was used in combination with standard treatment.
Their overview shows that research found the use of a ketogenic diet may be more promising in some types of tumors than in others.
Glioblastoma (a type of brain cancer) showed the most promise for treatment with a ketogenic diet, with six out of eight studies showing an anti-tumor effect. However, their review of melanoma research showed either no effect or a pro-tumor effect from treatment with a ketogenic diet.
The scientists note that there needs to be more research into the ketogenic diet and its role in cancer treatment, saying, “evidence from randomized controlled clinical trials is lacking, but needed, to answer the question of whether an adjuvant KD (ketogenic diet) would benefit specific cancer patients.”
However, they do find promise in this area and summarized their findings by saying, “Based on the results of rigorous preclinical and clinical studies performed thus far, the KD would appear to be a promising and powerful option for adjuvant therapy for a range of cancers.”
You can review more information about this study here.