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Can the Ketogenic Diet Help Brain Cancer PatientsResearch Paper

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Cancer affects millions each year worldwide. Some attribute it to diet; others attribute it to environmental factors. Meaning, some may say the toxins in processed food can lead to a higher risk of cancers while others say exposure to chemicals and toxins in the environment can as well. Still, growing evidence suggests nutrition plays an important role in a person's risk for cancer and if diagnosed with cancer, chances of remission. The old saying, "You are what you eat" applies in that nutrition can provide additional assistance to a person with cancer or it could hinder his/her progress.

Brain cancer is an often-fatal cancer in most people. Researchers believe tumors utilize glucose as a main supply of energy. Thus, a diet like the ketogenic diet, which removes carbohydrates from daily intake while providing sufficient protein and fat, could help a person wishing to shrink their tumors do so and possibly go into remission (along with treatment and medication). Although it is not suggested or stated that a ketogenic diet can cure brain cancer or other forms of cancers not related to the endocrine system, a ketogenic diet can assist with advanced metastatic tumors in that it may help improve certain aspects of quality of life. Medicine and treatments like chemotherapy help individuals go into remission. Diet however, can be a supplemental push or step in the right direction. The ketogenic diet has been established as a way to treat medically refractory epilepsy, but it has not been established as a suitable treatment for brain cancer.

Certain topics covered will be glioma therapy and energy metabolism. One of the main reasons supporters of the ketogenic diet approve of use of such a diet in certain cancer patients like brain cancer is solely for removing the extra fuel source for the cancer cells, glucose. This paper highlights several articles focused on the effects of a ketogenic diet on cancer patients as well as other mechanisms of glucose control that may help patients unable to handle the effects and restrictions of the ketogenic diet.

Review of Literature

In a study noting the effects of a ketogenic diet on patients, results showed most of the participants could not handle staying on a ketogenic diet. The ones that did noticed marked improvement in quality of life with improved energy and emotional state. "These pilot data suggest that a KD is suitable for even advanced cancer patients. It has no severe side effects and might improve aspects of quality of life and blood parameters in some patients with advanced metastatic tumors"(Schmidt, Pfetzer, Schwab, Strauss & Kammerer, 2011, p. 54). Because the ketogenic diet is a diet mainly consisting of fat, some protein, and little to no carbs (under 10 net carbs a day), even with incorporation of vegetables, constipation may occur. The article mentions lack of energy for and fatigue. These are some reasons why participants (that did not stay on the diet) left. When going through the induction phase of the ketogenic diet, the person experiencing the process may feel enhanced fatigue, a constant desire to urinate, and increased thirst.

Ketosis, the process the body undergoes when under the ketogenic diet, makes the body release ketones to process fat as energy. The body needs glucose for the brain to work. Therefore, the body will convert fat from the diet into glucose as needed. Some people undergo this process relatively painlessly, while others do not. Adverse side effects aside from fatigue and constipation are not noted in the study.

Another article by Maruer et al., investigates whether or not a ketogenic diet may selectively impair energy metabolism within tumor cells. Results showed the ketogenic diet led to a sizable increase of blood 3-hydroxybutrate. The increase did not improve survival nor did it alter blood glucose levels. Still glioma cells become affected from glucose restriction in the ketogenic diet. "…glioma cells are incapable of compensating for glucose restriction by metabolizing ketone bodies in vitro, suggesting a potential disadvantage of tumor cells compared to normal cells under a carbohydrate-restricted ketogenic diet" (Maurer et al., 2011, p. 351). For the ketogenic diet to be truly affected the researchers suggest the diet in combination with co-treatment modalities like antiangiogenic agents that effectively target non-oxidative pathways.

Calorie restriction may help more than the ketogenic diet alone. An article by Zuccoli et al., combines calorie restriction with ketogenic diet as a possible means of managing glioblastoma multiforme through targeting energy metabolism. Although the results were favorable,

After two months treatment, the patient's body weight was reduced by about 20% and no discernable brain tumor tissue was detected using either FDG-PET or MRI imaging. Biomarker changes showed reduced levels of blood glucose and elevated levels of urinary ketones. MRI evidence of tumor recurrence was found 10 weeks after suspension of strict diet therapy (Zuccoli et al., 2010, p. 33).

more information is needed in order to determine if calorie restriction along with a ketogenic diet can be useful in targeting energy metabolism in brain cancer patients. However, the results showed that calorie restriction and the ketogenic diet can be beneficial at least in the dietary sense for those with brain cancer as it provides them with energy and reduced blood glucose levels that a ketogenic diet alone with no calorie restriction did not provide.

The ketogenic diet should not be considered as a means of treatment for brain cancer. If anything, it must be regarded as a supplemental form of treatment to help other treatments like chemotherapy reduce the tumors and cancer cell activity within an affected individual. In a study by Stafford et al., researchers discovered other benefits of the ketogenic diet or KD besides reduction in glucose. "the KD improves survivability in our mouse model of glioma, and suggests that the mechanisms accounting for this protective effect likely involve complex alterations in cellular metabolism beyond simply a reduction in glucose" (Stafford et al., 2010, p. 71). Glioma therapy may benefit from the ketogenic diet. Although the protective effects remain unclear, results from studies like these suggest the ketogenic diet may improve a patient's condition beyond reduced glucose levels.

Cancer patients develop cancer due to various reasons. In an article by Klement & Kammerer, the authors discuss some characteristics among many cancer patients. "…many cancer patients exhibit an altered glucose metabolism characterized by insulin resistance and may profit from an increased protein and fat intake" (Klement & Kammerer, 2011, p. 75). Reduced carbohydrate intake may improve insulin resistance in cancer patients, which may in turn improve other cell functions within the body. However, because research in these areas remain lacking, there is no definitive proof of overall improvement in cancer patients when they participate in a ketogenic diet.

The most important statement that comes across from all these articles is the need for calorie restriction and healthy lifestyle choices. Insulin resistance comes from poor diet and eating too many processed and refined foods. Fast food and instant meals affect the body in ways that promote cancer cell proliferation. Although some of the articles state the benefits of the ketogenic diet, the real benefit may come from calorie restriction and removing the unhealthy dietary choices from the diet. A clear gap in the literature is the correlation between weight, lifestyle, and cancer risk.

Summary

The use of the ketogenic diet in brain cancer patients comes from the belief that altering the energy metabolism in the body to reduce glucose use in the brain can lead to possible reduction of brain tumors, a form of glioma therapy. The problem with this is the problem of dietary nutrition supersedes dietary restriction of carbohydrates. Some studies noted no real effect to glucose levels while one noticed a reduction of glucose levels with KD is coupled with calorie restriction.

Many cancer patients, especially those in America, may have cancer due to an unhealthy lifestyle and exposure to toxins. The ketogenic diet although helpful in some regards to commonly occurring problems in brain cancer patients like insulin resistance, is not, the best treatment. Patients hoping to go into remission with the ketogenic diet will not have positive results. Although the ketogenic diet improves some aspects of quality of life in some patients, not many can tolerate undergoing ketosis and give up on the dietary regime. The ones that continue may experience fatigue and constipation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the ketogenic diet has its proven benefits. It helps people reduce seizures. It may help with insulin resistance. However, it is not proven to help with brain cancer. Calorie restriction and the ketogenic diet combined may help improve outcomes for brain cancer patients, but that may be because most cancer patients experience insulin resistance and consequences of poor lifestyle choices. Research is needed to truly understand the mechanisms behind cancer cell proliferation and how nutrition may help provide the additional boost to help cancer patients into remission. Nutrition has always been essential to a healthy life. The ketogenic diet is a helpful diet for certain conditions, but not necessarily for brain… [END OF PREVIEW]

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