Scientists at Boston College said Tuesday that KetoCal, a commercially available, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet designed to treat epilepsy in children, significantly enhanced health and survival rates in animal studies.
"KetoCal represents a novel alternative therapy for malignant brain cancer," said Tom Seyfried, professor of biology. "While the tumors did not vanish in the mice who received the strict KetoCal diet, they got significantly smaller and the animals lived significantly longer."
His findings are published online in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism.
Malignant brain cancer is one of the most lethal types of cancer in adults and is the second-leading cause of cancer death in children. The KetoCal diet essentially starves the brain-tumor cells of the sugary molecules they require for growth and survival.
In an experiment, researchers implanted tumors into the brains of male mice. The mice were then divided into three groups. One group was fed a high-carbohydrate mouse chow, one was given unlimited amounts of KetoCal, and the final group was given KetoCal in a restricted dosage.
The researchers observed that mice on the restricted diet had 35 percent to 65 percent decreases in brain-tumor growth. Survival rates also were higher in the mice on the restricted diet.