JUL 17, 2018 5:51 AM PDT

Can the Keto Diet Make Cancer Treatment More Effective?

It’s been said that “you are what you eat” but with so many diet plans and trends, it can be hard to choose. Paleo, keto, Mediterranean, and Nordic are all ways of eating that emphasize “clean eating” in different ways.

Are they just trends or can they produce real health benefits? A new study on cancer treatment and the ketogenic diet (keto) suggests that when a patient is undergoing cancer treatment, their diet could impact the efficacy of treatments and even reduce some side effects of powerful cancer drugs. 

One of the newer treatments for cancer involves targeting a specific molecular pathway called phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K.) This pathway is activated by insulin, but in many forms of cancer, it’s disrupted. Years of research shows that in most tumors, there is a mutation of PI3K. Shutting down this pathway is the goal of over 50 drugs that have been studied in clinical trials. Overall, the results have been disappointing, with high levels of toxicity or inconsistent results.  So far only two PI3K inhibitors have been approved by the FDA.

Part of the problem with these drugs is that they can cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket. When the pancreas cannot meet the demand for enough insulin, the drug has to be discontinued. The keto diet works to control blood sugar and insulin spikes and researchers led by Benjamin D. Hopkins at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City may have found out how the keto diet can make some of these drugs work better. 

The keto diet is high in fat, but very low in carbs and sugar. Many who follow it have done so to control insulin and blood glucose levels. The researchers used lab mice who were taking PI3K inhibitors and had induced tumors. One group was fed a diet of rat chow similar in composition to a human ketogenic diet and the other group was treated with diabetic medications to control blood sugar and insulin levels. The results were more than they could have hoped for. The keto diet mice had the best blood sugar and insulin control and their tumors did not grow. Dr. Hopkins explained, "The ketogenic diet turned out to be the perfect approach. It reduced glycogen stores, so the mice couldn't release glucose in response to PI3K inhibition. This suggests that if you can block spikes in glucose and the subsequent insulin feedback, you can make the drugs much more effective at controlling cancer growth."

The authors were quick to point out that their study demonstrates the importance of a combined approach. A diet that targets insulin and blood sugar levels, along with cancer medications that can inhibit the PIK3 pathway signaling are both integral parts of making the drugs more effective and the patients healthier. It’s not the diet alone. The keto diet has some health benefits, but can also have side effects  for some people. In the study, the mice that were only given the keto diet and no PI3K inhibitor drugs had faster-growing leukemia cancers. Take a look at the video to learn more about how the keto diet can help some cancer patients regain their health. 

Sources: Journal Nature Business Insider  

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
OCT 01, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Signaling Waves Help Guide Cells to Heal Wounds
OCT 01, 2020
Signaling Waves Help Guide Cells to Heal Wounds
During development and throughout our lives, cells have to 'know' where to go to form the right structures and properly ...
OCT 06, 2020
Immunology
COVID Triggers Abnormalities in Immune Monocytes
OCT 06, 2020
COVID Triggers Abnormalities in Immune Monocytes
University of Manchester immunologists are the first to make an interesting observation about the white blood cells of p ...
OCT 15, 2020
Immunology
The Immune Cells Giving Menopausal Women Higher BPs
OCT 15, 2020
The Immune Cells Giving Menopausal Women Higher BPs
In general, men have higher blood pressures than women, giving them an increased risk of developing heart disease. After ...
OCT 19, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Early Childhood Trauma Affects Metabolism in the Next Generation
OCT 19, 2020
Early Childhood Trauma Affects Metabolism in the Next Generation
Traumatic experiences can have a lasting impact, and kids that suffer through them can feel the effects for a lifetime. ...
OCT 26, 2020
Cancer
Investigating the Receptor Protein FPR1 in Brain Cancer
OCT 26, 2020
Investigating the Receptor Protein FPR1 in Brain Cancer
Amongst the more common targets for cancer therapies are cell surface receptors. These receptors are proteins – us ...
OCT 27, 2020
Cardiology
Boron Could Prevent Myocardial Fibrosis and Assist in Recovery
OCT 27, 2020
Boron Could Prevent Myocardial Fibrosis and Assist in Recovery
When you pass by the nutrition section at the local grocery store, there is a chance you’ll come across row upon r ...
Loading Comments...