Diet modification is well known to prevent chronic disease and treat lifestyle-related diseases, including cancer. Caloric restriction, intermittent fasting, and ketogenic diets are the more commonly exploited dietary therapies utilized by patients with cancer. The ketogenic diet was initially utilized to help patients with severe seizure disorders in the 1920s, providing relief from intractable epilepsy (Wilder RM 1921). Recently, ketogenic diets have gained popularity among scientific community and healthcare consumers as a cancer treatment (Maroon et al. 2013)(Poff et al. 2013)(Abdelwahab et al. 2012)(Seyfried et al. 2012).
Ketogenic diets are described as high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets that have been found to starve cancer cells of metabolic fuel (Seyfried and Shelton 2010a). The strict regimen mimics the metabolic effects of starvation, as ketogenic diets decrease glucose and increase ketones in the blood. While healthy human cells can metabolize ketones for fuel, cancer cells cannot. They need GLUCOSE and GLUTAMINE to survive (Mathews et al. 2014)(Seyfried and Shelton 2010a). Much of the scientific literature on ketogenic diets for cancer has been published for malignant glioblastoma, especially in the pediatric population (Chang, Olson, and Schwartz 2013; Maroon et al. 2013; Seyfried et al. 2011, 2012).
Individuals on a ketogenic diet are maintained on a “keto” ratio, most often between 1-2:1, described as grams of fat to combined grams of protein plus carbohydrates. This keto ratio is lower in patients with cancer than the commonly prescribed ketogenic diets for epileptic patients, which is usually a 3-4:1 ratio (B. a Zupec-Kania and Spellman 2014). Individuals need to be followed closely by a physician and dietitian skilled in ketogenic diets due to nutrition and metabolic requirements while on a ketogenic diet. Adverse effects include micronutrient deficiencies, hypoglycemia, metabolic acidosis, dehydration, constipation, kidney stones, pancreatitis, and weight loss and decreased growth (Williams et al. 2002)(Sampath A et al. 2007) (B. Zupec-Kania and Zupanc 2008).