Published on November 2, 2023, 11:05 am
In 2020, approximately 2.3 million women worldwide were diagnosed with breast cancer. While certain factors such as age, sex, and family history are known to contribute to the risk of breast cancer, recent research suggests that diet may also play a role. A review published in the journal Nutrients by researchers from the University of Catania in Italy explores the potential therapeutic benefits of a keto diet for individuals with breast cancer.
Unhealthy dietary practices have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. For instance, a study conducted in September 2023 found a connection between consuming ultra-processed foods and higher breast cancer risk. Additionally, high sugar intake, including sugary sodas, has been associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer. Conversely, studies have shown that maintaining healthy eating habits can positively impact breast cancer prevention and treatment. A study from May 2021 discovered that consuming more fruits, vegetables, cheese, and soy products while reducing red and processed meat intake was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. Another study published in April 2023 revealed that following the Mediterranean diet may have a protective effect against breast cancer.
Nowadays, many people follow a ketogenic or “keto” diet where their daily calorie intake primarily comes from protein and healthy fats rather than carbohydrates. By placing less emphasis on carbohydrates, the body burns fat for energy instead, which leads to a metabolic state known as ketosis. Research has shown several potential benefits of following a keto diet such as weight loss promotion, appetite suppression, and support for cardiovascular health. Moreover, this type of diet has been found to be beneficial for managing conditions like type 2 diabetes, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and even cancer.
However, it is important to note that there are potential downsides to the keto diet as well. Many individuals starting this diet experience what is commonly referred to as the “keto flu” as their bodies adapt from burning carbs to fat. Long-term use of the keto diet can lead to side effects such as kidney stones, vitamin deficiency, liver disease, and low levels of protein in the blood (hypoproteinemia). It is also not recommended for individuals with gallbladder, pancreas, liver, or thyroid conditions, pregnant people, and those with eating disorders.
The recent review by researchers from the University of Catania aimed to assess the existing evidence linking the keto diet and breast cancer. They conducted a comprehensive search of preclinical and clinical studies on this topic. While some studies suggested that a keto diet may help inhibit tumor growth and improve treatment response in breast cancer patients, the results were inconsistent due to limited human trial data. Therefore, more clinical trials are needed to determine the potential positive effects of a keto diet on breast cancer.
Experts caution that while there may be some positive findings from these studies, it is still too early to recommend the keto diet for preventing or treating breast cancer. Dr. Parvin Peddi, a board-certified medical oncologist, explains that ongoing clinical trials are essential to understand the true benefits and degree of effectiveness of this diet in conjunction with therapy for breast cancer.
Additionally, it is crucial to consider that the keto diet may not be suitable for everyone. Anabelle Ahdoot, a clinical nutrition manager and oncology nutrition specialist at Saint John’s Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, CA, emphasizes that any dietary changes should be made under the supervision of a medical professional and balanced with existing medical modalities and treatments.
In conclusion, while research is exploring the potential therapeutic benefits of a ketogenic diet for individuals with breast cancer, it is important to remember that more robust clinical trials are necessary before making any definitive recommendations. A balanced approach that focuses on overall well-being and takes into account individual circumstances is always recommended when it comes to managing health conditions such as breast cancer.