How Does Ketogenic Diet Complement Cancer Therapies?

Dr Gunes Dr Hossami

Dr. Adem Günes & Dr. Abdulla El-Hossami

How Does Ketogenic Diet Complement Cancer Therapies?

While many cancerous tumours can be managed with conventional therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, these treatments are often ineffective against metastatic (one that has spread to other organs) disease. That means it fails, in many cases, to slow down cancer progression that a need for substantially novel therapies effective against metastatic cancer are often necessary.

The Beginning
Nearly a century after Otto Warburg reported the abnormal energy metabolism of cancer cells, renewed interest in the field has helped explain a plethora of novel therapeutic targets. The promising treatments Warburg considered were depriving cancer cells of oxygen through hyperbaric modality and the other one is the use of a diet called “ketogenic diet” (KD) to limit the availability of glucose-addicted cancer cells.

It is important for every cancer sufferer and those who are preventing the disease to know that cancer cells derive energy to grow from blood sugar or glucose. The principle of depriving them of it, can slow their cell division, thus, halting multiplication. The effect is more dramatic in metastatic cancer cells.

Since these treatments (KD and oxygen deprivation) are believed to work by targeting several overlapping mechanisms, combining these non-toxic treatments is believed to provide powerful, synergistic anti-cancer effects.

The Diet
The Ketogenic Diet is a special high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that is initially used to control seizures in some people with epilepsy but was not applied as a supplementary cancer therapy. Dietary lowering of blood glucose levels limits the energy supply to cancer cells, while elevating circulating blood ketone levels. “Ketone bodies” are alternative energy source when the body burns fat instead of sugar for cells. Cancer cells cannot utilize ketone bodies and makes it a good candidate therapy against cancer.

When applied as part of cancer therapy, it is prescribed by a physician and carefully monitored by a dietitian, requiring careful measurements of calories, fluids, and proteins. The diet has been shown to slow cancer progression in animals and humans.

Fats’ Role in Cancer Therapies
Fats and oils play an important role in nutrition. The body breaks down fats and uses them to store energy, insulate body tissues, and transport some types of vitamins through the blood. One of the better ways in which the body can use fats is in managing, that is, slowing down cancer progression. However, a cancer patient has to know which fat can help and which one can exacerbate cancer progression.

The Right Types of Fats
You may have heard that some fats are better for you than others. When considering the effects of fats on your heart, cholesterol level, as well as the anti-inflammatory effects against cancer, choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats more often than saturated fats or trans fats.

Monounsaturated fats are found mainly in vegetable oils like olive, canola, and peanut oils.

Polyunsaturated fats are found mainly in vegetable oils like safflower, sunflower, corn, and flaxseed. They are also the main fats found in seafood.

Saturated fats are mainly found in animal sources like meat and poultry, whole or reduced-fat milk, cheese, and butter. Some vegetable sources of saturated fats are oils like coconut, palm kernel oil, and palm oil. Saturated fats can raise cholesterol and increase your risk for heart disease. Less than 10% of your calories should come from saturated fat.

Trans-fatty acids are formed when vegetable oils are processed into solids, such as margarine or shortening. Sources of trans-fats include snack foods and baked goods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable shortening. Trans fats are also found naturally in some animal products, like dairy products. Trans-fats can raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol.

This is not saying that one can totally abstain from consumption of saturated fat. It will be unrealistic to advice a cancer patient to stay in a very strict diet. An easy way to adhere to using unsaturated fat is by substituting the fats or oil used with them.

One good example: if using mayonnaise for salad dressing, a mixture of olive oil, palm vinegar and mustard with herbs for flavor is an excellent substitute. Another one: frying fish with coconut oil can be changed by frying it instead in canola oil.

Ketogenic Diet in a Nutshell
To start a ketogenic diet or KD, you will want to plan ahead. That definitely means having a viable diet plan ready and waiting. What you eat really depends how fast you want to get into a ketogenic state. The more restrictive you are on your carbohydrates (less than 15g per day), the faster you will enter ketosis. Normally, anywhere between 20-30g of net carbs is recommended for every day dieting – but the lower you keep your glucose levels, the better the overall results will be.

*Carbohydrate intake between 20-60 grams per day.

*About 70-75% of calories from fat, 20-25% from protein, and 5-10% from carbohydrate on a daily basis when calories are not restricted.

The key to understanding a KD plan is to remember that one is swapping out the carbs in the diet with a higher fat and a moderate protein intake.

A Promising Complement
Ketogenic Diet has shown to produce significant anti-cancer effects when combined with a good lifestyle, involving hygiene, exercise and adequate rest in a natural model of systemic metastatic cancer. Our evidence suggests that this therapy should be further investigated as potential non-toxic treatment or adjuvant therapy to standard care for patients with systemic metastatic disease.

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