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Vitamins and supplements

Some people believe that taking certain vitamins, dietary supplements or restricting foods from their diet may improve the outcomes of brain tumour treatment.

To work properly, our bodies need nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, essential fats and amino acids. We can get all these nutrients in the amounts required through a healthy and balanced diet.

Currently there is insufficient evidence to say that these changes can have a positive effect. It is important to eat a balanced diet to keep your strength and energy up, lower your risk of infection and help you recover well from treatment.

People with brain tumours sometimes take extra nutrients in the form of dietary supplements (tablets or drinks). If you are finding it difficult to eat and are rapidly losing weight due to your treatment, your doctor or dietitian may prescribe you with some supplements to support your diet.

However, doctors usually don't recommend the use of dietary supplements for the management of symptoms because of a risk that they might make treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, less effective.

If you decide to try changing your diet, taking supplements or vitamins, you should speak to your doctor or dietitian first. This is because some dietary changes could affect your treatment or have serious side-effects, your health team will be able to discuss the risks with you and give you advice.

Food and vitamins that some people believe may have cancer preventative of cancer fighting properties include:

  • Green tea
  • Japanese mushrooms
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B and Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Multi-vitamins
  • Primrose oil
  • Fish oil
  • Boswellia serrata (salai)
  • Magnesium
  • 5-HTP (5-hydroxtryptophan)
  • L-carnitine
  • Various herbs
  • Nutrient Transport Concept (NTC)

Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice used in cooking, to flavour curries and other dishes. It is also found in some herbal remedies. The media have widely reported that turmeric or curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric, can help to treat or prevent cancer, but currently there is no scientific evidence to support this.

Curcumin and cancer

Some early clinical trials have shown that curcumin, may have cancer fighting properties and further research is needed.

Turmeric that you buy in the supermarket has only got a small amount of curcumin in. Taking too much turmeric can cause side-effects such as stomach pains and skin problems. There have also been warnings issued about some turmeric supplements that can be bought on the internet. These can have severe side effects including serious liver damage. You should speak to your doctor before taking any supplements.

Clinical trials involving curcumin

Cancer Research UK supported a clinical trial investigating whether curcumin could help to prevent bowel cancer or stop it returning after surgery. The trial wanted to find out if curcumin was absorbed by the body and how much can be taken without causing side effects. There is now a second trial to look at the effect of curcumin when combined with chemotherapy for advanced bowel cancer and the results are expected in 2019.

Other trials have taken place but at the moment further research is needed before there is sufficient scientific evidence to say that curcumin could be used as a cancer treatment.

There is no real evidence that these will help to treat or prevent cancer. We recommend that you speak to your doctor or dietitian before making changes to your diet or taking any alternative therapies as they may interfere with you current treatments.

Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is a special high fat, low carbohydrate diet which also requires careful measurement of proteins. There is currently no scientific evidence to show that the ketogenic diet is effective in treating brain tumours.

Read more about the ketogenic diet.

If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:

Information and Support line

0808 800 0004 (free from landlines and mobiles)

support@thebraintumourcharity.org

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If you need someone to talk to or advice on where to get help, we offer a wide range of inclusive and accessible support services for everyone affected by a brain tumour.