Women with ovarian or endometrial cancer lost more weight and lowered insulin levels on a ketogenic diet compared to those who ate low fat, scientists report.
The researchers suggest that the lower insulin and higher ketone levels from the diet might help to reduce risks of cancer growth.
Ketogenic diets are very low carbohydrate diets which allow the body to burn fat as fuel. Dietary or body fat is converted to a fuel source called ketones, which are used by the brain and other tissues as fuel.
Forty-five women were randomised to follow either a keto or low fat diet for 12 weeks. On a ketogenic diet the women lowered their carb intake and received 75% of their energy from fat. On the low fat diet women ate high amounts of fibre.
None of the participants actively attempted to lose weight and none were on special diets at the beginning of the study.
The 45 women involved were all overweight or obese and had either ovarian or endometrial cancer, two cancers which are associated with obesity and high insulin levels.
After 12 weeks, the keto group had lost more visceral fat and total fat mass. They also had lower insulin levels.
Being overweight and having high circulating insulin can increase the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, so the keto diet can help to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
“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.
“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.”
The study authors now plan to expand their research to see if following a ketogenic diet can impact cancer treatment.
The results appear online in The Journal of Nutrition.