The Efficacy of Ketogenic Diet and Associated Hypoglycemia as an Adjuvant Therapy for High-Grade Gliomas: A Review of the Literature

Cureus. 2015 Feb 27;7(2):e251. doi: 10.7759/cureus.251. eCollection 2015 Feb.


Background: A high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, often referred to as a ketogenic diet (KD), has been suggested to reduce frequency and severity of chronic pediatric and adult seizures. A hypoglycemic state, perpetuated by administration of a KD, has been hypothesized as a potential aid to the current standard treatments of high-grade gliomas.

Methods: To understand the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet as a therapy for malignant gliomas, studies analyzing components of a KD were reviewed. Both preclinical and clinical studies were included. The keywords "ketogenic diet, GBM, malignant glioma, hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia" were utilized to search for both abstracts and full articles in English. Overall, 39 articles were found and included in this review.

Results: Studies in animal models showed that a KD is able to control tumor growth and increase overall survival. Other pre-clinical studies have suggested that a KD sustains an environment in which tumors respond better to standard treatments, such as chemoradiation. In human cohorts, the KD was well tolerated. Quality of life was improved, compared to a standard, non-calorie or carbohydrate restricted diet. Hyperglycemia was independently associated with diminished survival.

Conclusion: Recent clinical findings have demonstrated that induced hypoglycemia and ketogenic diet are tolerable and can potentially be an adjuvant to standard treatments, such as surgery and chemoradiation. Other findings have advocated for KD as a malignant cell growth inhibitor, and indicate that further studies analyzing larger cohorts of GBM patients treated with a KD are needed to determine the breadth of impact a KD can have on GBM treatment.

Keywords: glioblastoma; high-grade glioma; hyperglycemia; hypoglycemia; ketogenic diet; neurosurgery.

Publication types

  • Review