UAB researchers study effects of keto diet in cancer patients

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A new study by UAB researchers shows a trendy diet may have a particularly helpful effect for people battling cancer.

Researchers randomly assigned 45 overweight or obese women with ovarian or endometrial cancer either the ketogenic diet or the American Cancer Society-recommended diet.

The keto diet, short for ketogenic, is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat and moderate protein diet. The American Cancer Society-recommended diet consists of moderate-to high-carbs, high-fiber and low-fat.

Over the course of12-weeks, the UAB study revealed women on the keto diet lost significantly more body fat and had lower glucose and insulin levels.

“Because cancer cells prefer to use glucose, diets that limit glucose may be beneficial,” said Barbara Gower, Ph.D., senior author and professor in the School of Health Professions at UAB. “These diets are called ‘ketogenic’ because they allow the body to burn fat as a fuel. Some of the fat is converted to ketones, which are used by the brain and many other tissues as another type of fuel. Because they limit glucose and several growth factors, ketogenic diets will limit the ability of cancer to grow, which gives the patient’s immune system time to respond.”

UAB researchers hope to continue to expand their research to see if it impacts cancer treatment as well.

“We hope to acquire additional grant funding so we can conduct a larger study that begins the diet right at the time of diagnosis so we can better estimate its effects on treatment, prognosis and survival,” said Kevin Fontaine, Ph.D., co-author of the study and chair of the Department of Health Behavior in the UAB School of Public Health.

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