The Ketogenic Diet Is an Effective Adjuvant to Radiation Therapy for the Treatment of Malignant Glioma

There are several really interesting finding in this animal study.  I think the best is represented in the image above.

The left hand image (A) shows the brain scans of a mouse done every three days after being implanted with a malignant glioma.  The top set of scans is a mouse on a standard mouse diet receiving standard dose brain radiation.  The bottom set of scans is a mouse also receiving standard dose brain radiation but on a ketogenic diet called KetoCal which is 4 parts fat to 1 part combined protein and carbs.  That works out to be about 10% carbs on a calorie basis.

On the right are the two curves that illustrate how ‘bright’ the scans show the cancer.   That is, the ‘redder’ the image is on the left the higher the plotted curve is on the right and the bigger the tumor is.  Curve B shows the standard food mouse which displays the cancer starting to grow by day 3 and exponentially growing by day 18.  The mouse died of its cancer around 40 days.

Curve C shows the mouse on a ketogenic diet also receiving standard irradiation.  After an initial burst of growth that lasted 9 days the tumor started to shrink to the point it was undetectable.  At 104 days the tumor remained undetectable.  At that point the mice in this group were switched to a standard food diet.  At 299 days they were sacrificed and examined.  The researchers noted that there was “no evidence of tumor cells in or near the area of implantation”.

They note that “9 out of the 11 animals treated with KC in combination with radiation were apparently cured of their implanted tumor”.  See image B below where the blue line represents the percent survival of mice on a ketogenic diet.  Their median survival time is undefined as they stopped dying.

In a related study, mice treated with either standard diet or ketogenic diet without any radiation therapy showed a surviability advantage for the ketogenic diet.  Those mice lived 5 days longer.  That’s not huge but it is statistically important.


This is pretty amazing stuff.  Everyday I’m excited to see the effect of a good nutrition on my patient’s health.  There are currently several human studies using ketogenic nutrition as part of therapy for brain cancers, specifically gliomas.  As this information evolves we may see low carb nutrition become standard of care in medicine.

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