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Effects of a ketogenic diet on the quality of life in 16 patients with advanced cancer: A pilot trial

Melanie Schmidt, Nadja Pfetzer, Micheal Schwab, Ingrid Strauss and Ulrike Kämmerer*

Author affiliations

Dept. Obstetrics and Gynecology, University Hospital of Wuerzburg, Josef-Schneider-Str. 4, D-97080 Wuerzburg, Germany

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Citation and License

Nutrition & Metabolism 2011, 8:54  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-8-54

Published: 27 July 2011

Abstract

Background

Tumor patients exhibit an increased peripheral demand of fatty acids and protein. Contrarily, tumors utilize glucose as their main source of energy supply. Thus, a diet supplying the cancer patient with sufficient fat and protein for his demands while restricting the carbohydrates (CHO) tumors thrive on, could be a helpful strategy in improving the patients' situation. A ketogenic diet (KD) fulfills these requirements. Therefore, we performed a pilot study to investigate the feasibility of a KD and its influence on the quality of life of patients with advanced metastatic tumors.

Methods

Sixteen patients with advanced metastatic tumors and no conventional therapeutic options participated in the study. The patients were instructed to follow a KD (less than 70 g CHO per day) with normal groceries and were provided with a supply of food additives to mix a protein/fat shake to simplify the 3-month intervention period. Quality of life [assessed by EORTC QLQ-C30 (version 2)], serum and general health parameters were determined at baseline, after every two weeks of follow-up, or after drop out. The effect of dietary change on metabolism was monitored daily by measuring urinary ketone bodies.

Results

One patient did not tolerate the diet and dropped out within 3 days. Among those who tolerated the diet, two patients died early, one stopped after 2 weeks due to personal reasons, one felt unable to stick to the diet after 4 weeks, one stopped after 6 and two stopped after 7 and 8 weeks due to progress of the disease, one had to discontinue after 6 weeks to resume chemotherapy and five completed the 3 month intervention period. These five and the one who resumed chemotherapy after 6 weeks report an improved emotional functioning and less insomnia, while several other parameters of quality of life remained stable or worsened, reflecting their very advanced disease. Except for temporary constipation and fatigue, we found no severe adverse side effects, especially no changes in cholesterol or blood lipids.

Conclusions

These pilot data suggest that a KD is suitable for even advanced cancer patients. It has no severe side effects and might improve aspects of quality of life and blood parameters in some patients with advanced metastatic tumors.

Keywords:
Ketogenic diet; cancer patients; pilot study; quality of life