At Reno Integrative Medical Center we believe ketogenic diet for cancer is a must.

There are many different ideas and opinions out in the field of cancer treatment regarding which diet is best to address optimal treatment. One of the only diets to undergo intense scientific study to date is a calorie restricted ketogenic diet

Sugar candies and donut

Cancer requires 18 times more sugar
Glucose (sugar) is the primary source of energy used by all the cells in the body. We get glucose mostly from the carbohydrates in our foods, but our body can also make glucose in between meals or during short fasting periods. In times of prolonged fasting(12-24 hrs) or as blood glucose levels are consistently low, the liver starts converting fatty acids into ketones and blood ketone levels increase. It is important to remember that each pathway is never “shut-off”, metabolism works more as a dimmer switch, as one pathway decreases the other pathway increases to produce energy.

Long ago research showed that cancer cells use a different kind of metabolism known as fermentation or anaerobic metabolism. This metabolism doesn’t need oxygen but relies heavily on glucose as the primary source of energy and allows cancer to increase its metabolic rate in order to metastasize.

The problem is that you cannot kill the cancer by not eating sugar. Your brain requires as much glucose as it requires oxygen. The human body has back-up mechanisms to create energy for the brain, one of them being ketogenesis (ketone body production). Ketones are very similar to short-chained fatty acids allowing them to cross the blood-brain barrier, supply energy to the brain and the rest of the body. Research has shown that cancer cells might not have this type of back-up mechanism.

Using Ketones for Fuel

Using ketones for fuel

Supported by evidence from more than 1,000 scientific and clinical studies over the last several decades, the ketogenic diet for cancer has been shown to cause some major changes in the metabolism of cancer cells. This research has revealed some new, non-toxic treatment strategies that target tumor cell energy production and metabolism.

This new method called “Mitochondrial Enhancement Therapy” (MET) which shows a transition from glucose (sugar) metabolism to ketone metabolism which causes a number of major changes that start to weaken cancer cells can lead to the death of cancer cells. MET triggers a major reduction in inflammation, blocks and decreases formation of new blood vessels in cancer cells.

Most tumor cells suffer common defects in their ability to process energy, they become highly vulnerable to therapies that target these processes. Non-toxic therapies that target cancer cell fermentation will go far in managing the disease without causing further toxicity in the patient.

The ketogenic diet has been used in modern medicine for over 90 years. It was designed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic. Despite being highly effective in treating epilepsy, it fell out of fashion due to an increase in new anti-seizure medications in the 1940’s since that is what it was originally used for. Back then doctors often used fasting therapy to treat difficult health problems such as cancer, arthritis, gastritis, and neurological problems, let alone for weight loss. Fasting is one of the quickest ways to get into “ketosis”.

Misconceptions of the “Dangers” of a Ketogenic Diet for Cancer

There are many misconceptions of potential “dangers” of a ketogenic diet for cancer by the uninformed public as well as many medically trained people.

You may have heard some of these lingering arguments opposing the use of low carb, high fat ketogenic diets. The vast majority of them are either grossly overblown or patently untrue.

Metabolic Ketosis V.S. Diabetic Keto-acidosis

It is important to draw a distinct line between metabolic ketosis (benign or even beneficial) and diabetic keto-acidosis (life threatening). Ketoacidosis is a combination of high blood glucose (above 300 mg/dL) and elevated ketone levels; ketoacidosis is most commonly seen in diabetics as 300 mg/dL is an elevated blood glucose level. Ketosis is a normal state in which the body is producing ketone bodies for energy. Doctors tend to view any level of ketosis as a warning sign of ketoacidosis and often caution patients about ketogenic dieting.

Another criticism is that very low carb diets induce insulin resistance and a “glucose deficiency”. There is no such thing as a “carbohydrate deficiency” (this is not hypoglycemia)! This cannot be found in any medical textbook on the planet! It is nonsense! Increasing the use of fats for energy has been shown to normalize insulin levels, insulin sensitivity, and stabilize blood sugars.

Doctors tend to view any level of ketosis as a warning sign of ketoacidosis and often caution patients about ketogenic dieting.

The biggest analytical study on the safety and efficacy of the classic ketogenic diet to date was recently completed at Johns Hopkins University. The lead researcher, Eric Kossoff, M.D., stated “Our study should help put to rest some of the nagging doubts about the long-term safety of the ketogenic diet. The effects of the ketogenic diet have been overwhelmingly positive, whether it has been to treat a brain disorder, correct a metabolic problem, or to lose unwanted weight.”

Glucose (sugar) is the primary source of energy used by all the cells in the body. We get glucose mostly from the carbohydrates in our foods. Between meals, when blood glucose levels fall, the liver starts converting fatty acids (fats) into ketones and blood ketone levels increase.

Fat makes you fat! What about micronutrients?

Some people have a concern that the consumption of saturated fat leads to an increased chance of a heart attack. It is high levels of LDL and reduced levels of HDL that are the problem makers in heart disease. Interestingly, it is people who consume plenty of “healthy whole grains” that have astoundingly high level of LDL. People who eliminate grains, sugars, and enjoy a healthy state of ketosis can have reduced levels of LDL and increased levels of HDL.

For a list of healthy fats and foods go to Anti-Cancer Diet.

More misconceptions

It has been said that eating a ketogenic diet will lead to scurvy due to lack of vitamin C. Two artic explorers from Sweden lived and traveled with the Eskimos for nine years in the 1930’s eating an animal based, low carb, high fat diet. They were later studied for one year at Bellevue Hospital in New York on the all-meat (including organ meat and bone broth) ketogenic diet. They remained healthy during the study and didn’t develop scurvy or any other nutritional deficiencies.

Vitamin C is often brought up with oranges, but bell peppers and kale contain more Vitamin C per serving than an orange. Vitamin K is widely seen in leafy green vegetables and will never be a problem if a balanced keto diet is implemented. Vitamin E can be found in hazelnuts, almond, spinach, and collard greens. Vitamin E is also regenerated by Vitamin C.