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Prostate cancer is a leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States. While some prostate cancers respond well to local treatment, many cases require systemic treatments, such as chemotherapy or hormone therapies, which can have many side effects. Because having overweight or obesity increases the risk of death from prostate cancer](https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/cncr.22443), newer and alternative therapies that slow cancer growth and help patients lose weight are needed. Findings of a new report show that a low carb diet generates ketones and other metabolic compounds associated with slower prostate cancer growth.

Low carbohydrate and ketogenic diets are popular with adults looking to lose weight, but they also have therapeutic power for a growing list of diseases such as epilepsy, [diabetes](​​https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/doi/full/10.12968/pnur.2020.31.4.176), Parkinson’s disease, and some cancers. In addition to the metabolic benefits of weight loss, many anticancer compounds are produced during ketosis such as beta-hydroxybutyrate, a short-chain fatty acid with documented antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Additional research is needed to characterize the wide range of molecules generated on a low carb diet and explore their relationship to prostate cancer growth.

The investigators recruited participants who had recurrent prostate cancer and a BMI in the overweight or obese range (greater than 24). They assigned participants to consume a low carbohydrate diet (less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day) for six months or continue their habitual diet. Participants provided a blood sample to measure metabolic and cancer biomarkers at multiple time points.

The investigators found increased concentrations of multiple ketone bodies in the blood and increased expression of genes for ketone production, indicating participants succeeded in maintaining ketosis. A low carbohydrate diet altered serum concentrations of multiple amino acids, such as glycine, alanine, and asymmetric dimethylarginine, and increased the expression of genes involved in the synthesis of malate, citrate, and branched-chain amino acids. The researchers found a relationship between increased concentrations of ketosis-related compounds and prostate specific antigen (PSA) double time (a marker of prostate cancer growth rate), indicating that cancer growth was reduced as ketosis intensified.

These results show that metabolites produced in response to a ketogenic diet may contribute to the beneficial effects of a low carb diet for patients with prostate cancer.

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