Low-Carbohydrate, High-Protein Diets May Reduce Both Tumor Growth Rates and Cancer Risk

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The results of a new study might have an effect on cancer prevention and treatment, scientists say. The study, published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, suggests that a low-carbohydrate, high protein diet may reduce cancer risk and slow the growth of tumors.

The scientists say that although the study was conducted in mice, the findings are authoritative enough that an effect in humans should be studied.

Lead researcher Gerald Krystal, Ph.D., of the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre and his colleagues assigned certain strains of mice that had been implanted with mouse and human tumor cells to one of two different diets. The typical Western diet contained about 55 percent carbohydrate, 23 percent protein and 22 percent fat; a second, extremely high-protein diet, had 15 percent carbohydrate, 58 percent protein and 26 percent fat. The study found that the tumor cells grew slower on the high-protein diet.

In another aspect of the study, breast cancer predisposed mice were put on these two diets. Nearly half of the mice that consumed the Western diet developed breast cancer before reaching one year of age; but none of the mice that ate the low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet did. Additionally, only one of the mice that ate the Western diet lived to a normal age (approximately 2 years). 70 percent of these mice died from cancer. Just 30 percent of those on the low-carbohydrate diet developed cancer, and more than half these mice reached a normal age.

Also tested were the effects of an mTOR cell-growth inhibitor, and a COX-2 inhibitor, which acts to reduce inflammation, on tumor development. These agents were found to positively affect the mice fed the low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet.

Dr. Krystal suggested that since tumor cells need much more glucose to grow than normal cells, decreasing carbohydrate intake, which limits blood glucose, could negatively impact tumor growth. Insulin, too, which has previously been shown to promote tumor growth, is limited by this diet.

A low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet might also strengthen the immune system’s ability to kill cancer cells and also avert obesity, which has been shown to promote chronic inflammation and cancer.

Dr. Krystal said, “This shows that something as simple as a change in diet can have an impact on cancer risk.”

Cancer Research editor-in-chief George Prendergast, Ph.D., CEO of the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, who was not involved in the study, agreed with Dr. Krystal. “Many cancer patients are interested in making changes in areas that they can control, and this study definitely lends credence to the idea that a change in diet can be beneficial,” he said.

American Association for Cancer Research (2011, June 15). Low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets may reduce both tumor growth rates and cancer risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18,

Holly Kramer, David Shoham, Leslie A. McClure, Ramon Durazo-Arvizu, George Howard, Suzanne Judd, Paul Muntner, Monika Safford, David G. Warnock, William McClellan. Association of Waist Circumference and Body Mass Index With All-Cause Mortality in CKD: The REGARDS (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke) Study. American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 2011; DOI: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2011.02.390

Source: ScienceDaily (June 15, 2011)

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