Some of the most exciting studies related to ketogenic diet refer to its use in the fight against cancer. Moreover, some of them point out the efficacy of this diet in the treatment of glioblastoma – brain tumor that is considered to be the most dangerous brain tumor type.
Studies show that diet rich in fat and poor in carbohydrates starves the cancer cells and stops its growth and further development, and there is also evidence of completely cured patients.
Ketogenic diet has been long known as an effective non-toxic therapy that reduces the epileptic seizures in children. This diet uses mechanisms to control the seizures and these mechanisms are associated with the changes in the brain’s energy metabolism.
Glucose is the only metabolic fuel that is used in almost every brain function in normal physiological conditions, but the brain will metabolize the ketone bodies for energy in cases of limited access to glucose, which happens, for example, in the therapeutical starving in people or limited calorie intake in mice.
It has been long known that fasting, when you are only allowed to drink water, or limited calorie intake are effective in the control over epilepsy in both people and mice.
Ketogenic diet was introduced as an alternative to the long-term control of epileptic seizures in people. The efficacy of this diet compared to the regular diet is 4:1. It is important to point out that this diet is being recognized as a potential therapy for many other neurological and neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury and stroke.
When applied in limited amounts that do not exceed the total individual energy needs, ketogenic diet can also has therapeutical effect in the treatment of tumors in people and mice.
Some of the available cases of clinical studies associated with the treatment of Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)
In 1995, Nebeling and his co-workers conducted the first nutritional metabolic therapy of human brain tumors by introducing the ketogenic therapy. The purpose of this study was to transfer the primary substrates for energy metabolism, using glucose, on the ketone bodies in order to disrupt the metabolism of tumor, by maintaining the patient’s appetite at the same time.
The study included two girls with brain tumor at an advanced stage, which could not be completely removed by surgery (anaplastic astrocytoma stage 4 and cerebral astrocytoma stage 3).
The remains of the tumor in both cases were subjected to extensive radiation and chemotherapy. Regardless of the harsh and life-threatening effects these treatments have, both children showed good reaction to the ketogenic diet and experienced a long-term control of their tumors without further chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Positron Emission Tomography with fluorodeoxyglucose showed reduction of 21,8 percent in the use of glucose on the tumor spot in both cases of ketogenic diet. These findings show that this specific ketogenic diet which efficiently reduces glucose levels and increases the number of ketone bodies, can reduce the glycolytic metabolism in brain tumors.
A research conducted in 2010 gives an example of a 65 year old woman, diagnosed with GBM. Before the beginning of the regular therapy, her therapy included therapeutical fasting and limited ketogenic diet. Also, during the regular treatment she was following a special ketogenic diet regimen, and received vitamins and minerals.
After two months, her weight was reduced by 2 percent, and there were no traces of brain tumor tissue. Biomarker changes showed reduced blood glucose levels and increased number of urine ketones.