Following a modified ketogenic diet could be beneficial for those who have been diagnosed with a brain tumor, according to a recent study from the American Academy of Neurology.

The main purpose of this investigation was to determine if the keto eating pattern was doable for adults after completing their treatment plan (radiation and chemotherapy) for astrocytoma—a type of cancer that stems from cells called astrocytes, which support nerve cells, as defined by the Mayo Clinic.

Since glucose causes cancer cells to divide and multiply, the research team focused on the low-carb, low-sugar keto diet based on the theory that cancer cells cannot utilize ketones for energy.

During the eight-week study period, the patients were instructed to follow one version of the keto diet—a modified Atkins (low-carb) diet for five days a week, followed by two days of intermittent fasting (where they could consume up to 20% of their recommended daily caloric intake). The volunteers worked with a dietitian throughout the trial.

As for the results, which were published in the online issue of the journal Neurology, not only was this eating style well-tolerated among the majority of the participants, but the study authors noted that several positive changes occurred in both the body and the brain. These changes included a decrease in hemoglobin A1c levels, insulin levels, and fat body mass, along with an increase in lean body mass, as well as concentrations of ketones and metabolic changes within the tumor.

There are not a lot of effective treatments for these types of brain tumors, and survival rates are low, so any new advances are very welcome,” said Roy E. Strowd, MD, MS, MEd, of Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, in a press release.

“Of course, more studies are needed to determine whether this diet can prevent the growth of brain tumors and help people live longer, but these results show that the diet can be safe for people with brain tumors and successfully produce changes in the metabolism of the body and the brain.”

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