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Dietary restriction during the treatment of cancer: results of a systematic scoping review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number811
Number of pages15
JournalBMC Cancer
DateAccepted/In press - 12 Jul 2019
DatePublished (current) - 15 Aug 2019


Diets that restrict energy or macronutrient intake (e.g. fasting/ketogenic diets (KDs)) may selectively protect non-tumour cells during cancer treatment. Previous reviews have focused on a subset of dietary restrictions (DR) or have not performed systematic searches. We conducted a systematic scoping review of DR at the time of cancer treatment.

MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, AMED and Web of Science databases were searched for studies of adults undergoing DR alongside treatment for cancer. Search results were screened against inclusion/exclusion criteria. Data from included studies were extracted by two independent reviewers. Results were summarised narratively.

Twenty-three independent studies (34 articles), with small sample sizes, met the inclusion criteria. Four categories were identified: KDs (10 studies), fasting (4 studies), protein restriction (5 studies) and combined interventions (4 studies). Diets were tolerated well, however adherence was variable, particularly for KDs. Biomarker analysis in KDs and fasting resulted in the expected increase in ketones or reduction in insulin-like growth factors, respectively, however they did not reduce glucose.

Future research with adequately powered studies is required to test the effects of each DR intervention on treatment toxicities and outcomes. Further research into improving
adherence to DR may improve the feasibility of larger trials.

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