It’s hard to swallow that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US. In fact, according to the study CA Cancer Journal Clinic in 2016, around 600,000 Americans were predicted to die. That means on average 1,600 people were dying daily. If that sounds depressing, it is, but it’s also a reality that we must face. Thankfully there are ways to combat cancer, and one of those ways may be going on a high fat, low carb diet. Centers typically treat cancer with chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Experts have studied a variety of strategies, but many of them are not effective. However, there is a lot of hope in a low carb diet, or specifically, a very low carb diet called the ketogenic diet. (You can learn more about this incredible diet in the Body Reboot book). Early research, discussed below, reveals that a very low-carb keto diet may help.
Healthline Red discusses how the keto diet is used therapeutically to treat cancer and how it may be better for cancer patients to consume more fat than what is normally recommended.
In general, a ketogenic diet used for weight loss is about 60-75% of calories as fat, with 15-30% of calories from protein and 5-10% of calories from carbs.
However, when a ketogenic diet is being used therapeutically to treat cancer, the fat content may be significantly higher (up to 90% of calories) and the protein content lower.
In 2014 a study was done by Redox Technology which discussed how a ketogenic diet may starve cancer. Since cancer cells increase glucose, by incorporating a low-fat diet, it can help lower glucose and thus help treat cancer. The study discusses these findings in more depth below:
Cancer cells, relative to normal cells, demonstrate significant alterations in metabolism that are proposed to result in increased steady-state levels of mitochondrial-derived reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as O2•−and H2O2. It has also been proposed that cancer cells increase glucose and hydroperoxide metabolism to compensate for increased levels of ROS. Given this theoretical construct, it is reasonable to propose that forcing cancer cells to use mitochondrial oxidative metabolism by feeding ketogenic diets that are high in fats and low in glucose and other carbohydrates, would selectively cause metabolic oxidative stress in cancer versus normal cells. Increased metabolic oxidative stress in cancer cells would in turn be predicted to selectively sensitize cancer cells to conventional radiation and chemotherapies. This review summarizes the evidence supporting the hypothesis that ketogenic diets may be safely used as an adjuvant therapy to conventional radiation and chemotherapies and discusses the proposed mechanisms by which ketogenic diets may enhance cancer cell therapeutic responses.
Despite recent advances in chemo-radiation, the prognosis for many cancer patients remains poor, and most current treatments are limited by severe adverse events. Therefore, there is a great need for complimentary approaches that have limited patient toxicity while selectively enhancing therapy responses in cancer versus normal tissues. Ketogenic diets could represent a potential dietary manipulation that could be rapidly implemented for the purpose of exploiting inherent oxidative metabolic differences between cancer cells and normal cells to improve standard therapeutic outcomes by selectively enhancing metabolic oxidative stress in cancer cells.
Although the mechanism by which ketogenic diets demonstrate anticancer effects when combined with standard radio-chemo-therapies has not been fully elucidated, preclinical results have demonstrated the safety and potential efficacy of using ketogenic diets in combination with radio-chemo-therapy to improve responses in murine cancer models. These preclinical studies have provided the impetus for extending the use of ketogenic diets into phase I clinical trials that are currently ongoing.
Similarly, ketogenic diets can be a good option as a co-adjuvant therapy, which is what Europe Journal Clinical Invest, a study from 2016, reveals.
The employment of dietary strategies such as ketogenic diets, which force cells to alter their energy source, has shown efficacy in the treatment of several diseases. Ketogenic diets are composed of high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrates, which favour mitochondrial respiration rather than glycolysis for energy metabolism.
This review focuses on how oncological, neurological and mitochondrial disorders have been targeted by ketogenic diets, their metabolic effects, and the possible mechanisms of action on mitochondrial energy homeostasis. The beneficial and adverse effects of the ketogenic diets are also highlighted.
RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS:
Although the full mechanism by which ketogenic diets improve oncological and neurological conditions still remains to be elucidated, their clinical efficacy has attracted many new followers, and ketogenic diets can be a good option as a co-adjuvant therapy, depending on the situation and the extent of the disease.
Yet another study (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2014) discusses how a high-fat diet may not only help treat cancer but other diseases such as PCOS as well.
Ketogenic diets are commonly considered to be a useful tool for weight control and many studies suggest that they could be more efficient than low-fat diets, although there is not concordance in the literature about their absolute effectiveness and even some doubts raised about safety. But there is a ‘hidden face' of the ketogenic diet: its broader therapeutic action. There are new and exciting scenarios about the use of ketogenic diets, as discussed in this review, in cancer, T2D, PCOS, cardiovascular and neurological diseases. Further studies are warranted to investigate more in detail the potential therapeutic mechanisms, its effectiveness and safety, and we would invite all researchers to face this challenge without prejudice.
The reason why a high fat diet can starve cancer is that cancer cells cannot use ketones as fuel. That’s excellent news considering for the most part cancer lives off glucose. A study by the International Journal of Cancer in 2014 shows that ketones may reduce tumor size and growth:
Cancer cells express an abnormal metabolism characterized by increased glucose consumption owing to genetic mutations and mitochondrial dysfunction. Previous studies indicate that unlike healthy tissues, cancer cells are unable to effectively use ketone bodies for energy. Furthermore, ketones inhibit the proliferation and viability of cultured tumor cells. As the Warburg effect is especially prominent in metastatic cells, we hypothesized that dietary ketone supplementation would inhibit metastatic cancer progression in vivo. Proliferation and viability were measured in the highly metastatic VM-M3 cells cultured in the presence and absence of β-hydroxybutyrate (βHB). Adult male inbred VM mice were implanted subcutaneously with firefly luciferase-tagged syngeneic VM-M3 cells. Mice were fed a standard diet supplemented with either 1,3-butanediol (BD) or a ketone ester (KE), which are metabolized to the ketone bodies βHB and acetoacetate. Tumor growth was monitored by in vivo bioluminescent imaging. Survival time, tumor growth rate, blood glucose, blood βHB and body weight were measured throughout the survival study. Ketone supplementation decreased proliferation and viability of the VM-M3 cells grown in vitro, even in the presence of high glucose. Dietary ketone supplementation with BD and KE prolonged survival in VM-M3 mice with systemic metastatic cancer by 51 and 69%, respectively (p < 0.05). Ketone administration elicited anticancer effects in vitro and in vivo independent of glucose levels or calorie restriction. The use of supplemental ketone precursors as a cancer treatment should be further investigated in animal models to determine potential for future clinical use.
The ketogenic diet has been shown to enhance the efficacy of both radiation and chemotherapy in vivo.4,50,51 As supplemental ketones mimic the physiological ketosis induced by the ketogenic diet, combining supplemental ketone therapy with standard of care could produce similar effects, even if administered with a SD. Furthermore, the neuroprotective effects of ketone metabolism have been widely documented.52 Ketone metabolism protects normal cells from oxidative damage by decreasing mitochondrial ROS production and enhancing endogenous antioxidant defenses.13 Radiation and chemotherapy work in large part by inducing ROS production in the tumor, but simultaneously incur damage to normal tissue. Ketone metabolism by healthy tissue would likely mitigate some of the adverse side effects of standard of care as ketones have been shown to protect against oxidative stress.13,34 Our data strongly suggest that supplemental ketone administration could provide a safe, feasible and cost-effective adjuvant to standard care that should be further investigated in preclinical and clinical settings.
MD Anderson Cancer Center discusses how the keto diet may fight against cancer, but as Maria Petzel, a senior clinical dietitian at MD Anderson says, no single food can cure cancer. However, based on the above studies, that doesn’t mean a low carb diet can’t help!
No single food can cure cancer, but some research has shown a link between the keto diet and slowed growth of some types of tumors in mice. A few studies in humans with certain types of brain tumors have also shown promise. On the contrary, a very low-fat diet has been found to reduce risk of recurrence for certain types of breast cancer. Some researchers are conducting more clinical trials with cancer patients, looking at how diet affects patients, along with chemotherapy and radiation. We hope that this research, as well as future research, will help us better understand the role that the keto plays in cancer.
It’s exciting to think that a keto diet can help starve cancer. For patients who are battling cancer, they may want to consider using the keto diet as a possible way to help battle their illness. Besides treating cancer and diseases, the keto diet has many other benefits. At the time of writing this post, we're giving away free copies of the Body Reboot book, which discusses the many benefits of the keto diet. Help us cover the cost of shipping and we’d be happy to send you a FREE book. Head to this page right away to see if there are any remaining copies.
Sources: MD Anderson Cancer Center, NCBI: Redox Biology, 2014, NCBI: Europe Journal Clinical Invest, 2016, NCBI: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2014, NCBI: International Journal of Cancer, 2014
Discover how to activate your body's “Reboot Switch” that flips on a fat burning inferno so you can finally achieve your weight loss goals!
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Discover how to activate your body's “Reboot Switch” that flips on a fat burning inferno so you can finally get healthy and achieve your weight loss goals!