Is there a role for carbohydrate restriction in the treatment and prevention of cancer?

I came across a very interesting article in which the relationship of our modern high sugar, high carbohydrate diet to cancer was studied.  The conclusions of the researchers may interest you.The study was published in the journal “Nutrition and Metabolism” in October 2011. The researchers, Rainer Klement and Ulrike Kammerer conducted a comprehensive review of the literature involving dietary carbohydrates and their direct and indirect effect on cancer cells.

Here is the link to the full article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3267662/?tool=pubmed

The reserachers summarize their main findings from the literature regarding the role of dietary CHO restriction in cancer development and outcome.

(i) Most, if not all, tumor cells have a high demand on glucose compared to benign cells of the same tissue and conduct glycolysis even in the presence of oxygen (the Warburg effect). In addition, many cancer cells express insulin receptors (IRs) and show hyperactivation of the IGF1R-IR pathway. Evidence exists that chronically elevated blood glucose, insulin and IGF1 levels facilitate tumorigenesis and worsen the outcome in cancer patients.

(ii) The involvement of the glucose-insulin axis may also explain the association of the metabolic syndrome with an increased risk for several cancers. CHO restriction has already been shown to exert favorable effects in patients with the metabolic syndrome. Epidemiological and anthropological studies indicate that restricting dietary CHOs could be beneficial in decreasing cancer risk.

(iii) Many cancer patients, in particular those with advanced stages of the disease, exhibit altered whole-body metabolism marked by increased plasma levels of inflammatory molecules, impaired glycogen synthesis, increased proteolysis and increased fat utilization in muscle tissue, increased lipolysis in adipose tissue and increased gluconeogenesis by the liver. High fat, low CHO diets aim at accounting for these metabolic alterations. Studies conducted so far have shown that such diets are safe and likely beneficial, in particular for advanced stage cancer patients.

(iv) CHO restriction mimics the metabolic state of calorie restriction or – in the case of KDs – fasting. The beneficial effects of calorie restriction and fasting on cancer risk and progression are well established. CHO restriction thus opens the possibility to target the same underlying mechanisms without the side-effects of hunger and weight loss.

(v) Some laboratory studies indicate a direct anti-tumor potential of ketone bodies. During the past years, a multitude of mouse studies indeed proved anti-tumor effects of KDs for various tumor types, and a few case reports and pre-clinical studies obtained promising results in cancer patients as well. Several registered clinical trials are going to investigate the case for a KD as a supportive therapeutic option in oncology.

I hope this overview provides you new insights.

Best regards, Michiel Floris

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