Using Ketogenic Diet To Fight Cancer
Starving cancer cells with a Ketogenic Diet
Preliminary research shows it can stop cancer progression, inhibit metastases and kill off cancer cells. But, research to date is restricted mainly to animal studies, brain cancer and colorectal cancer; however, human trials have now started.
All cells burn glucose. However, while healthy cells are flexible and can burn alternatives like fat (in a process called ketosis), by and large cancer cells are inflexible and can only use sugar (although glutamate can be another energy source). Several cancers seem particularly ´responsive´ to glucose, for example, brain tumours and colorectal cancers. To date, other cancers seem to vary.
For example, with brain cells, high plasma glucose levels has been linked to some cases of Dementia; and a ketogenic diet has been used for quite some time with success in cases of child Epilepsy. A product (high fat, lowish protein, very low carbs) called KetoCal was developed a number of years ago for just such cases. And, in research, healthy brain cells seem more ready to adapt to ketosis.
Restricting Sugar With The Ketogenic Diet Slows Cancer Growth
For example, Johns Hopkins showed that restricting sugar in colorectal cancer increased survival. However, again this may be due to a particular property of those cancer cells – researchers from Copenhagen have shown that colorectal cancer cells have a specific enzyme that attaches itself to sugar molecules; and healthy cells don´t have this.
Much work has been done on the Ketogenic Diet by Seyfried and D´Agostino. Professor Thomas Seyfried of Boston College is a biologist and, after years of extensive research, he fervently believes cancer is a metabolic disease, not a genetic one. Dr. Dominic D´Agostino Assistant Professor at South Florida University concurs. Both have been involved with treating patients with advanced cancer successfully using a ketogenic diet. Seyfried was also part of a team that showed the Ketogenic Diet effects could be enhanced by Hyperbaric Oxygen.
The big question is, “Is it applicable to cancers other than brain and colorectal?”
The typical ketogenic diet derives its energy between 70-90% from fat, 5% from carbohydrates, 5-10% from proteins.
The Simple Theory of the Ketogenic Diet
Cancer cells love glucose – it is essential to their survival.
The fundamental tenet of the Ketogenic Diet is that cancer cells need to ferment to survive. And to do this they must consume glucose. While healthy cells can switch to burning fats if there is insufficient glucose available, cancer cells are inflexible and the theory is that if there´s no glucose available, they wither and die.
Cancer cells have much higher levels of insulin receptor sites than healthy cells, to increase glucose uptake; and this avarice is known by oncologists who use PET scans involving a radiological dye combined with sugar, to pinpoint cancers in the body.
One cancer treatment, Insulin potentiation Therapy even uses this fact to get cancer cells to respond to much lower chemotherapy levels by the simultaneous infusion of insulin.
Finally, cancer cells have defective mitochondria. According to the Ketogenic experts, energy metabolism leads to the production of harmful ´reactive oxygen species´. Glucose is essential to destroying these. Without glucose, they kill the cell.
ii) There is increasing evidence that high plasma glucose levels are linked to greater cancer risk and lowered survival in those already with cancer
In another study, researchers at Johns Hopkins showed that depriving colorectal cancer of glucose produced positive survival results.
Fasting Can Help Cancer Survival
There is increasing evidence that calorie restriction (that is, eating about 15% less calories than you need in a day) can aid any cancer survival.
iv) There is increasing evidence that fasting can increase any cancer survival – because it reduces plasma glucose levels, and those of the hormones IGF-1 and insulin, both implicated in cancer development. Fasting also restricts glutamine levels, reducing glutamate, which is another energy source for cancer. And fasting boosts the immune system.
(Note also, that both Calorie Restriction and fasting have been shown to improve chemotherapy outcomes, reduce side-effects, and allow lowered doses of chemotherapy to be used.)
After 24 hours fasting starts to starve inflexible cancer cells of their fuel (glucose), while normal healthy cells, which are flexible, can burn fuel from other sources (for example, fats). This is called KETOSIS.
Unfortunately, in practice, 70 per cent of cancer patients cannot bear the thought of fasting even though it can halt cancer progression.
v) A ketogenic diet, which limits carbohydrate and protein consumption, but allows people to eat healthy fats, overcomes the need to fast while enhancing ketosis in the body. There is even a ´food´ made to a Ketogenic formula, and called KetoCal, for the people who don´t want to fast.
The Ketogenic Diet is an extreme diet. Frankly, there is so much research evidence on the colorful Mediterranean Diet both preventing cancer and increasing survival, one wonders why this halfway house is simply not adopted by everyone who wants to beat cancer as a ´first step´.
The Ketogenic Diet does prompt good weight loss in overweight people and has been researched as a way of reducing weight better than low fat or low carb diets. However, over time, the same loss of weight is also delivered by a colorful Mediterranean Diet.
Bad fat (LDL) drives metastases and lowers survival
Furthermore, it would seem that cancer can, in low sugar conditions, turn to burning glutamate. This is readily available all over the body, but especially in nerves and muscle tissue. Not fully explained by any means as yet, these cancers can start to spread aggressively simply by attacking adjacent cells and using the glutamate stores. Glutamate is made in the body from glutamine, folic acid and glucose, amongst other sources. Glutamine is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of protein. And this is why the Ketogenic Diet restricts protein consumption.
Glutamate is known to fuel a cancer ´feeding pump´ and spread metastases. Indeed several research studies have focussed on ´normalising´ cancer cells by blocking the pump.
What does the Ketogenic Diet involve?
While calorie restriction may have benefits against cancer, when you next have a meal, glucose, insulin, IGF-1 and glutamine levels all spike. This causes mood swings, cellular inflammation and may refuel the cancer cells. Complete fasting (3-5 days) can prevent this. Fasting induces a state of ketosis in the body, where flexible healthy cells deprived of glucose switch to a fat burning system. But cancer cells do not have this flexibility, and so they starve to death.