A diet that eliminates all sugar and most carbs and pumps up one’s daily intake of fat doesn’t sound too appealing to most, but researchers from around the world are hoping it’s able to do one miraculous thing: destroy cancer.
Scientists are currently looking into the effects of the ketogenic diet for its potential to starve brain tumours and treat cancer patients. The high-fat, low-carbohydrate and no-sugar diet forces the liver to produce a fuel called ketones, that provides energy for the body. It also eliminates the production of glucose in the blood, something that cancer cells use to grow and spread. The theory is that without glucose the cancer cells simply die.
Currently the diet’s effects on cancer cells have only been tested on animals, but researchers are also keeping track of one Canadian who’s following the diet after removing a brain tumour. Fifteen-year-old Adam Sorenson was diagnosed with Stage 4 glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer over two years ago. The median survival just 12 to 15 months after after diagnosis. So, once doctors remove the baseball-sized brain tumour and the teen received radiation treatment, Adam’s parents decided to look into diet as a way to keep the cancer from coming back.
“You feel pretty helpless as a parent. You’re not doing anything for your kid. You’re waiting for the cancer to come back,” said Brad Sorenson, Adam’s father. “So that’s when I started thinking, ‘Well, what can I control, what can I do?’ and I started looking into diet.”
The Sorensons hired a dietician and with Adam on board they started creating a meal plan that followed the ketogenic diet. While eating foods that are high in fat sounds like fun, it clearly must be hard to give up all sugary things, right? Adam has the best mindset.
“Do you prefer to [sic] eat candy or survive, I prefer to do whatever it takes to stay alive and plus, it’s fun,” he said.
Since getting on the ketogenic diet, Adam has undergone numerous brain scans and, so far, he remains cancer free. Since this is just one case and not a controlled study, researchers are planning on putting 80 brain cancer patients undergoing radiation and chemo on the ketogenic diet so they can study its effects.
In the fall, scientists from around the world will also gather in Banff for the Global Symposium on Ketogenic Therapies. Here’s hoping they’re able get the much-needed funding so that more studies can be done.