By: Alison Licquia MS, RDN, CD
The Ketogenic Diet was designed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic, originally created to treat Epilepsy by mimicking starvation in the body. Wilder found that starvation (or fasting) helped to relieve difficult to control seizures. Despite being highly effective in treating epilepsy, its popularity quickly dwindled with the surge in new anti-seizure medications in the 1940s.
Most recently the Ketogenic Diet was suggested to weaken cancer cells and aid in shrinking tumor cells in certain cancers; however there is still more research to be done with respect to its effect on cancer.
The Ketogenic Diet is high fat (~90%), low carb (~3%) (4:1 or 3:1 ratio) and provides low-adequate protein (~7%) to meet nutritional needs. This high fat/low carb combination changes the way our bodies use energy and forces it into starvation mode. When this happens all sources of carbs (or glucose) are used within the body and the body is forced to produce a new source of energy (from fat). Fat is converted in the liver into fatty acids and ketone bodies. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state known as ketosis, leads to a reduction in the occurrence of epileptic seizures. Energy produced from fat is also suitable for heart, muscle and brain cells, which have very high glucose demands. The working theory and preliminary findings suggest that this diet is not suited to meet the high energy demands of tumor cells and may cause them to weaken due to being under-fueled.
The research is exciting when it comes to correlation between diet and its effect on cancer treatment, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to confirm and support the efficacy of Ketogenic Diets and weakening/shrinking cancer cells. Please consult your oncologist or physician if you feel the Ketogenic Diet would benefit you.
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Disclaimer: This diet requires medical supervision and should not be implemented without direction from medical professionals to treat epilepsy, seizures, cancer or any other condition.