Diet factsheet - standard format
Download our factsheet about diet and brain tumours
There is currently no scientific evidence to show that the ketogenic diet is effective in treating brain tumours. If you want to try the diet, it is important to speak to your doctor or dietitian first.
The ketogenic diet is a special high fat, low carbohydrate diet which also requires careful measurement of proteins. It is called ketogenic because it restricts carbohydrate intake, forcing the body to produce an alternative form of energy molecule from fat, called ketones. This diet was first used almost a century ago as a way to manage epilepsy in children who didn't respond to existing medication.
Over the past few years there has been a surge in interest regarding the potential of the ketogenic diet in treating brain tumours and related seizures. Supporters of the ketogenic diet believe that cancer cells are dependent on sugars (simple carbohydrates) and so strictly reducing the intake of carbohydrates and sugar can starve the tumour, while the body fulfils its energy needs by producing and using ketone molecules.
Unfortunately, there is currently no scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet in treating brain tumours. The NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines: Brain tumours (primary) and brain metastases, published in July 2018, state that patients should be advised that the evidence does not support use of alternative treatments such as the ketogenic diet as treatments.
If you wish to follow a ketogenic diet you should only do so under the supervision and guidance of your doctor or dietitian.
This is because it can affect your standard treatment and interfere with observations of your condition by your medical team. It can also cause side-effects, such as weight loss, constipation and fatigue. These may be short-term and your doctor/dietitian can help to alleviate or prevent these side-effects.
Anyone with a pre-existing medical condition, such as diabetes, should always consult their doctor before making significant dietary changes.