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Ketogenic diet: a certain sidekick for cancer treatment

Ketogenic diet: a certain sidekick for cancer treatment

Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases troubling mankind since ages. So, considering the expanse and diversity of this disease, it is but obvious that much research has gone in to understanding the basic mechanisms of cancer and subsequently cancer therapeutics.

Recently, one of the arenas in cancer research that has come to the forefront is how cancer cells attain so much energy that they can grow at indefinable speed. Although this puzzle was measurably solved by a famous cancer biologist, Otto Warburg, long back in 1950s only, but its implication in terms of cancer treatment was still lacking. Warburg found that cancer cells increase their uptake of glucose in order to meet their energy demand and therefore gain unending proliferation potential. This finding illuminated the idea of devoiding cancer cells from glucose to kill them. Now, glucose is something that we consume regularly in the form of our carbohydrate-laden diet and it is important for normal functioning of body. So the next challenge was how to starve specifically cancer cells without declining the physiological functioning. Over the years, one answer which scientists were able to find is "ketogenic diet".

The ketogenic diet means a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Because this diet has very low carbohydrate content, the liver starts converting fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. These ketone bodies replace glucose as an energy source, that's why the diet is named as ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet was originally designed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder to treat refractory epilepsy in children. But later on several physicians observed that the low-carbohydrate diet cooperates with the chemotherapy during the process of treatment and recovery of tumor patients. Emergence of ketogenic diet in supporting cancer treatment created new paradigms in cancer management as it can be easily incorporated in day-to-day life. It can be accomplished just by lowering the amount of carbohydrates and increasing the quantity of proteins as well as healthy fats such as, avocados, raw seed, nuts, olive oil, and eggs in the diet of cancer patients. Basically, eating this type of diet decreases the bad guy i.e. glucose in case of cancer patients, and hence curbs the addiction of glucose of cancer cells. Ketogenic diet also ensures that the normal cells in the body of cancer patients remain healthy and full of energy. Overall, ketogenic diet serves as energy provider to the normal cells and concomitantly it starve cancer cells for energy. The efficiency of this diet in cancer therapy also situated in the fact that cancer cells are unable to derive energy from ketone bodies due to defective mitochondrial machinery. So essentially, ketogenic diets provided a long-pondered clue in the puzzle of killing cancer cells by starving them of glucose.

Beneficial effects of ketogenic diet has been highlighted by several scientific reports. Various studies has been carried out on patients with advanced stages of cancer, and these studies show that this diet is effective in delivering palliative effect and improvement in quality of life of cancer patients with almost no side-effects. Moreover, to establish ketogenic diet as an adjunct therapy against brain cancer, clinical trials by the National Cancer Institute, USA, have also been conducted at large scale. However, considering the complexity of the disease, one needs to realise that no single path could bring to complete cure. Nonetheless, the advent of the ketogenic diet and its role as an aid in cancer therapy does hold strength for supportive mode of therapy when it comes to cancer.


Dr Yatendra Kumar Satija ( 6 )

Dr. Yatendra is serving as Scientist (Biomedical Research) at University of Delhi. His fascination for knowledge and unquenchable curiosity made him to pursue this exploring trade. Yatendra completed his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Dr. Yatendra has received many awards including DST International Travel Support Award, CSIR foreign travel grant, CSIR-JRF etc. He has been serving as an editorial board member and reviewer board member of several national and international journals. His aim is not only to produce some useful research but to popularize science among masses. In this direction, he undertook a training course in "Science Journalism". He is the founding member of Cerebroz Edutech Corporation, which reaches out to school students’ education through audio-visual medium. Yatendra is actively working to advance science outreach.

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