Ketogenic Diet May Benefit Ovarian, Endometrial Cancer Patients

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Cancer cells predominantly metabolize glucose to proliferate, so they are more vulnerable in glucose-depleted environments, which can be facilitated by a ketogenic diet.
Cancer cells predominantly metabolize glucose to proliferate, so they are more vulnerable in glucose-depleted environments, which can be facilitated by a ketogenic diet.

For women with endometrial or ovarian cancer, a ketogenic (“keto”) diet may result in a decrease in cancer-related growth factors, loss of total and visceral fat, and maintenance of lean body mass, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition.

A group of researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03171506) to determine whether a keto diet (energy from fat, protein, and carbohydrate in a 70:25:5 ratio, respectively) would improve body composition and reduce serum levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), and whether these changes would affect endometrial and ovarian cancer cells.

Eligible candidates were aged ≥19 years with no pre-existing medical conditions affecting body weight (excluding cancer and associated treatments), were not aggressively attempting to lose or gain weight, and had a body mass index (BMI) of ≥18 kg/m2. Women with type 2 diabetes were eligible for participation.

Of the 73 women randomly assigned to either a keto diet or the American Cancer Society (ACS) diet (high in fiber, low in fat), 45 completed the study: 20 women in the ACS diet cohort and 25 women in the keto diet cohort. At baseline and at 12 weeks, body composition, fasting serum insulin, IGF-1, and β-hydroxybutyrate were measured.

At baseline, the average total fat mass was 44.1 kg in the ACS group and 37.9 kg in the keto group. At week 12, members of the keto diet cohort (vs the ACS diet cohort) had significantly less total body fat, android fat, and visceral fat; the percentage of change in visceral fat was greater in the keto diet cohort than in the ACS diet cohort (–21.2% vs –4.6%). Adjusted total lean mass did not differ significantly between the 2 groups.

In addition, the fasting serum insulin concentration was lower in the keto diet cohort than in the ACS diet cohort at week 12; conversely, the β-hydroxybutyrate concentration was significantly higher in the keto diet group. Adjusted average IGF-1 levels did not differ significantly between the 2 groups at week 12.

“In summary, among women with ovarian or endometrial cancer, a [12-week keto diet] produced selective loss of total and visceral fat, maintenance of lean body mass, and decreases in cancer-related growth factors,” the authors concluded. “Further study in a clinical setting is needed to determine whether the [keto diet] may be an effective nonpharmacologic adjuvant therapy for cancer.”

Reference

Cohen CW, Fontaine KR, Arend RC, et al. A ketogenic diet reduces central obesity and serum insulin in women with ovarian or endometrial cancer. J Nutr. 2018;148(8):1253-1260.
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