Low carb, high protein diet curbs cancer growth: Could be good prevention
Adopting a high protein, low carbohydrate diet can benefit cancer patients by slowing tumor growth, suggests new research. Low carb, high protein foods could also prevent cancer, found in mouse studies. Scientists say study findings of the benefits are strong enough to be considered for humans.
Restricting carbohydrates in the diet has potential to kill cancer cells
The researchers explain cancer cells need more glucose than normal cells to grow and spread. Restricting carbohydrates in the diet limits the fuel cancerous tumors need to thrive.
Eating a lower carb, high protein diet could also kill cancer cells by boosting the immune system and curbing inflammation and obesity that are risk factors for developing the disease.
Lead researcher Gerald Krystal, Ph.D., a distinguished scientist at the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre said, “This shows that something as simple as a change in diet can have an impact on cancer risk.”
The research, published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), was performed on mice implanted with different types of human cancer.
One group of mice was given a typical Western diet consisting of 55 percent carbohydrate, 23 percent protein and 22 percent fat. The other group received 15 percent carbohydrate, 58 percent protein and 26 percent fat, similar to the South Beach diet.
The lower carb diet slowed the growth of cancer in the mice, and the finding was strong enough to suggest the result would be the same in humans.
The researchers also studied mice predisposed to breast cancer. Half of the mice fed a typical Western diet developed breast cancer in the first year of life, and 70 percent of them died. Conversely, half of the mice given a low carbohydrate, high protein diet reached normal lifespan even though they were predisposed to develop cancer. Only 30 percent developed the disease.
Low carbohydrate diet boosts cancer inhibitors
Krystal and colleagues also found a low carbohydrate, high protein diet boosted activity of mTOR inhibitor that blocks cancer cell growth and is the target of drugs used for cancer treatment. They also tested a COX-2 inhibitor that reduces inflammation that can fuel cancer cell growth, finding the higher protein; lower carbohydrate diet boosted the anti-inflammatory effect of the agent.
Krystal said a low carbohydrate, high protein diet could help cancer patients limits the amount of the glucose and the hormone insulin that promotes cancer cell growth. The added benefit of higher immune function and curbing obesity from eating fewer carbs could also help prevent the disease by lowering chronic inflammation. The findings show simple dietary changes could help cancer patients live longer.
Cancer Research: doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-3973
Cancer Research: “A Low Carbohydrate, High Protein Diet Slows Tumor Growth and Prevents Cancer Initiation”
Victor W. Ho et al
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