The keto diet might be a way to fight against certain cancers, according to biologists at The University of Texas at Dallas. Avoiding glucose has long been known to help fight diabetes, but restricting glucose levels in blood might also be a bulwark against cancer cells as well.
The study cut glucose levels for mice with lung cancer by feeding them a ketogenic diet, pairing reduced sugar with a diabetes drug. Many cancers are suspected to be dependent on glucose as an energy source, but the research showed that squamous cell carcinoma is even more dependent than other cancers.
“Both the ketogenic diet and the pharmacological restriction of blood glucose by themselves inhibited the further growth of squamous cell carcinoma tumors in mice with lung cancer,” said Dr. Jung-Whan Kim, corresponding author of the multinational study and an assistant professor of biological sciences at UT Dallas via release. “While these interventions did not shrink the tumors, they did keep them from progressing, which suggests this type of cancer might be vulnerable to glucose restriction.”
Kim said that restricting glucose didn’t impact non-squamous-cell cancer types, and shouldn’t be generalized to all cancers.
But when studying human blood samples of those with lung or esophageal squamous cell cancer, the research found a strong correlation between survival rates and glucose concentration in the blood. Kim said more research is needed, but this method would present a new way to fight this type of cancer.
“The key finding of our new study in mice is that a ketogenic diet alone does have some tumor-growth inhibitory effect in squamous cell cancer,” Kim said via release. “When we combined this with the diabetes drug and chemotherapy, it was even more effective.”
The study was published on August 13 in the journal Cell Reports.