According to a recent study by the American Academy of Neurology, a modified ketogenic (keto) diet may be beneficial for those who have been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
The main goal of this study was to determine whether the keto diet was feasible for adults after completing their treatment plan (radiation and chemotherapy) for astrocytoma — a type of cancer that arises from cells called astrocytes that support nerve cells, such as defined by the Mayo Clinic.
Because glucose causes cancer cells to divide and multiply, the research team focused on the low-carb, low-sugar keto diet based on the theory that cancer cells can’t use ketones for energy.
During the eight-week study period, patients were instructed to follow one version of the keto diet five days a week: a modified Atkins (low-carb) diet, followed by two days intermittent fasting (where they could consume up to 20% of their recommended daily calorie intake). The volunteers worked together with a dietitian throughout the trial.
As for the results, which were published in the online issue of the journal NeurologyNot only was this eating style well tolerated by the majority of participants, but the study authors noted that several positive changes occurred in both the body and the brain. These changes include decreases in hemoglobin A1c levels, insulin levels, and fat body mass, along with increases in lean body mass, as well as concentrations of ketones and metabolic changes in the tumor.
“There aren’t many effective treatments for these types of brain tumors, and survival rates are low, so new developments are very welcome,” says Roy E. Strowd, MD, MS, MEd of Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, and a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, in a press release.
“Of course, more studies are needed to determine whether this diet can prevent brain tumor growth and help people live longer, but these results show that the diet may be safe for people with brain tumors and successfully alter the metabolism of brain tumors.” the brain can cause. body and brain.”
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time scientists have looked at a possible link between the keto diet and brain health, says Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, registered dietitian, sports nutritionist, and author of “365 snacks for every day of the year.”
“These previous studies have found positive results regarding the brain’s ability to use ketones as an alternative source of energy instead of carbohydrates,” she says. Research published in the log PNAS discovered that ketosis was found to boost brain activity in adults and ward off the effects of brain aging.
Koszyk goes on to explain that there are some other health benefits of going to keto, such as losing weight, saying that “fat fills us up so we feel full after eating, which also helps manage hunger levels.”
The diet can also help regulate blood sugar levels. “It may be beneficial for people with insulin resistance, such as women with PCOS or people with type 2 diabetes,” she adds. “The ketogenic diet has also been used to reduce seizures in people with epilepsy.”
However, there can be some drawbacks to this popular diet. While fat is your friend, the kind of fat you put on your plate can make a difference in your overall well-being.
“Heart-healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats [like olive oil, avocado, and peanuts] and Omega-3 fatty acids [such as salmon, oysters, and chia seeds] are fantastic for our health,” says Koszyk. “Unfortunately, we choose to consume higher amounts of saturated fat [fatty beef, cream, butter, and cheese] can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.”
She also states that limited intake of carbohydrate-rich fruits (such as bananas and mangoes), vegetables (such as beets and sweet potatoes), and certain fiber-rich foods (including quinoa and oatmeal) can lead to unwanted side effects such as fatigue and constipation, along with vitamins. – and mineral deficiencies. And since there’s little room for mistakes in the keto diet, sticking to the plan can be a challenge.
“To get a person into a state of ketosis, they have to be very diligent and consistent with their carbohydrate intake to allow the body to use fat for fuel,” explains Koszyk. “So if someone has a ‘cheat’ day or just eats more carbs than recommended, their body will go back to using glycogen as its primary source of energy — and that’s not the goal.”
But in the case of this latest study from the American Academy of Neurology, she believes their initial findings hold some promise. “The study had a very small sample size — only 21 people completed the study and only 10 people followed the full ketogenic diet plan — so more research is needed to determine better conclusive results,” Koszyk says. “But this study is a good start.”
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