Ketogenic Diets and Cancer: FAQ
“For someone actively looking to manage a state of cancer, the ketogenic diet may be a better choice.”p. 108, “From Doctor to Patient”
Q: What is a Ketogenic Diet?
A: A ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet, such as the Atkins diet. Ketogenic dieters focus on eating lean meats and healthy fats, while limiting carbohydrates. The limited carbohydrates typically come from fruits and vegetables, as simple carbohydrates such as sugar and white bread should be avoided altogether.
Q: What is Ketosis?
A: Normally, the body uses glucose (obtained from carbohydrates such as sugars and starches) to create energy. However, when there is not enough glucose, the body will turn to burning fats instead. This is the primary idea on which the ketogenic diet was formed – force the body to remain in a state of ketosis, constantly burning fat for fuel.
Q: Are Ketogenic Diets Safe for Cancer Patients?
A: In most cases – yes. In a review of four research trials that studied the safety and tolerability of ketogenic diets for cancer patients, Dr. Jocelyn Tan-Shalaby concluded that cancer patients can tolerate ketogenic dieting (2017). However, depending on the patient and type of cancer, some people may not tolerate ketogenic diets as well as others. Before beginning any diet, ketogenic or otherwise, cancer patients should discuss their options with their doctor.
Q: Can a Ketogenic Diet Cure Cancer?
A: A healthy diet, such as the ketogenic diet, should be used as an adjunct to standard cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. As Maria Petzel, senior clinical dietitian at MD Anderson said, “no single food can cure cancer” (MD Anderson, 2018). Nonetheless, current evidence suggests that a ketogenic diet may slow tumor growth in mice, and a few studies on the association between ketogenic diets and brain tumors look promising (MD Anderson, 2018). Current evidence is limited, but many research trials on this topic are ongoing. We look forward to learning more about the relationship between ketogenic diets and cancer treatment in the near future.
Q: Where Can I Get More Information on Dieting as a Cancer Patient?
A: In Dr. Diva Nagula’s book “From Doctor to Patient,” Dr. Nagula explains many dietary options for cancer patients. As a physician, Dr. Nagula provides the biological background of each diet so that readers can make a decision on the best diet for them. He also shares the dieting and other health strategies that helped him overcome his own battle with cancer. You can purchase a Kindle or paperback version of “From Doctor to Patient” on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Patient-Healing-Cancer-through-ebook/dp/B081PG4P87
MD Anderson. (2018, April 18). The keto diet and cancer: What patients should know. Retrieved January 3, 2020, from https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/cancerwise/the-keto-diet-and-cancer–what-patients-should-know.h00-159223356.html.
Tan-Shalaby J. (2017). Ketogenic Diets and Cancer: Emerging Evidence. Federal practitioner : for the health care professionals of the VA, DoD, and PHS, 34(Suppl 1), 37S–42S.