Fad diets’ are diet plans which are sold as fastest approach for curing disease and lifestyle changes like losing weight. Some of these diets involve eliminating foods that contain necessary nutrients that your body needs to maintain good health. Some diets claim that food can change body chemistry. Often these diets are not well researched or backed up with sound scientific evidence. The reason why they are so ‘appealing’ is simply because some of them are endorsed by celebrities or influencers that have a huge fan following!

Everyone is familiar with these ‘miracle-cure’ diets for weight loss and reversing diabetes. But Fad Diets have even managed to raise their ugly heads in something as serious as Cancer!

There is a list of Fad Diet during cancer treatment with destructive dietary change for these people . In disease like cancer, where maintaining adequate weight is very crucial, people loose10-20 kg or more following a Fad Diet because they went to a workshop program, read it in a book or found it on Google!

These diets have applied a ‘one size fits all’ approach to their diet and they are not individualised. Upon checking the blood parameters of some people following these Fad diets while on cancer treatment, it was seen that they had severe deficiencies in critical areas including vitamin B12, folate and sometimes dangerous levels of selenium, zinc, Vitamin D & A; which is the last thing anyone undergoing cancer treatment would want!

Let’s have a look at some of famous fad diet during Cancer treatment:

  • Alkaline Diet:  This diet involves having meals with lots of fruits and vegetables and limit the red meat, sugar and white flour/rice. The philosophy of alkaline diet is that cancer is caused by an acidic environment in the body. The extra alkalinity from fruits and vegetables can decrease the acid load and aid in detoxification. However, there is very limited data that acid nature of your body causes cancer. Adhering to such diet plans without an expert advise may be lead you to severe deficiencies of protein, vitamins and minerals and can lead to serious health complications.
  • Palaeolithic Diet: The Palaeolithic diet involves following dietary pattern similar to Stone Age humans. The meal plans incorporate fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat and eggs and excludesgrains, legumes, dairy products and processed foods. Although this diet plan emphasises on whole foods, fruits and vegetables but excluding grains, pulses and beans is not advisable as these food groups are a major complex carbohydrate source, have some preventive properties against cancer and may aid in improving general health conditions.
  • Ketogenic Diet: The Keto diet follows an approach of high fat and very low carbohydrate meals. Generally, cells get energy from glucose but in keto diet, cells are starved from glucose and are diverted to ketones for the source of energy. Research studies have proved that some cancer cells are not able to metabolise ketones and some cancer cells use ketones as source of energy for their growth and development. Adhering to keto diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies of B complex vitamins, Vitamin C, phosphorus and selenium. The evidence on whether keto diets reduce cancer growth and spread is still in a grey area.
  • Vegan Diet: Vegan diet emphasizes on refraining from eating animal products such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy and honey. The diet insists in incorporating grains, nuts, seeds, non-dairy sources of milk, paneer and curd, fruits and vegetables. However, following vegan diet you can continue eating processed vegetarian diet, this encourages poor eating habits and may not provide wholesome nourishment to cancer patients and can cause deficiencies of nutrients like Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and calcium.
  • Intermittent Fasting: Intermittent fasting is becoming a popular concept in recent times. It involves fasting for certain hours of the day, usually 16 hours and eating 2 to 3 meals in a day for the remaining8 hours. It is believed that intermittent fasting increases death of cancer cells and reduces tumor growth.  However, such fasting ritual among cancer patients may lead to calorie and protein deficiency further leading to muscle loss. This may further alter and delay the treatment and recovery. Therefore, since there is no strong evidence to support intermittent fasting works for people with cancer or taking cancer treatment, this diet is not recommended for patients undergoing treatments.

After diagnosis of cancer, optimum nutrition will help you feel better and stay stronger during and after cancer treatment and can help you tolerate treatment side effects. To achieve a good a ‘promising cure’, lot of people get confused and get easily attracted to information from social media, internet, magazines, friends and other non-reliable sources on diets that assure to cure cancer. Only relying on such sources without talking to your health care team can be dangerous as certain foods and supplements can interact with your cancer treatments.

So, what type of diet should be followed after cancer diagnosis or to prevent cancer?

This question, fortunately or unfortunately has a very ‘non-glamourous’ answer. Experts often suggest a well-balanced diet which includes all food groups – very similar to what you are already eating!

So, always start by consulting with a nutritionist who has experience in Cancer care. A nutritionist can help to sort out all the confusing nutrition information you may have encountered so you can separate fact from fiction. A nutritionist can hand-hold on how to modify your meal plans for better nutrient absorption and digestion based on your specific needs. This will help you sail smoothly over the dreaded cancer treatment and its side effects!