The low carb, high-fat ketogenic diet can prevent and fight cancer, said radiation oncologist Dr. Colin Champ. Champ, an MIT graduate and researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, understands the skepticism that accompanies prescribing the ketogenic diet to manage cancer.
“When you talk about the ketogenic diet, it raises concern,” Colin said during a lecture at IHMC, the Institute for Human & Machine Recognition. “When you tell a patient not to eat bread they might say, ‘That doctor is crazy.'”
But Dr. Champ said research shows ketogenic diet therapy can be used in conjunction with the conventional standard of care (surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation) to treat some forms of cancer, including glioblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer.
The ketogenic diet has already proven effective for promoting rapid weight loss by forcing the body to burn fat for fuel in a metabolic state called ketosis, said Dr. Eric Westman, author of Keto Clarity.
The ketogenic diet has also been shown to reverse type 2 diabetes and managing epileptic seizures, but scientists are increasingly optimistic it can be a useful cancer-fighting tool.
‘Sugar Addiction Is the Achilles Heel of Cancer‘
Dr. Dominic D’Agostino of the University of South Florida said his research shows the low-carb sugar-free ketogenic diet starves cancer cells because cancer thrives on sugar and cannot survive on ketones.
“Sugar addiction is the Achilles heel of cancer cells,” Dr. D’Agostino told me in an exclusive interview.
By drastically limiting carbohydrates (as the sugar-free ketogenic diet does) and entering a metabolic state called ketosis, you reduce glucose and insulin, and thus restrict the primary fuel for cancer cell growth.
“When we restrict carbs in our diet, we can prevent pro-inflammatory spikes in blood glucose and blood insulin,” said D’Agostino, who has a Ph.D. in physiology and neuroscience. “Suppression of blood glucose and insulin spikes is very helpful when managing chronic diseases.”
According to D’Agostino, diet therapy can work for cancer because his research shows cancer is a metabolic — not a genetic — disease. “Most cancer scientists have historically thought cancer was a genetic disease, but only five to 10 percent of cancer is hereditary,” said Dr. D’Agostino.
A review describing the metabolic theory of cancer was recently published by Professor Thomas Seyfried of Boston College in collaboration with D’Agostino’s lab in the medical journal Carcinogenesis.
Seyfried said the problem with the traditional treatment of cancer is that the cancer community has approached it as a genetic disease, so much of the research efforts have gone into gene-focused studies, which he says does not address the root of the problem.
According to Seyfried, the medical community is reluctant to publicly acknowledge the efficacy of the ketogenic diet for preventing and treating cancer because doing so would cut off the massive streams of revenue hospitals generate from chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“It’s a simple economic issue,” Dr. Seyfried told me. “There’s no money in it for the hospitals, doctors, and drug companies to prescribe a ketogenic diet when they can make hundreds of millions of dollars from the standard of care. Radiation therapy is a huge revenue generator for hospitals.”
While some people are skeptical, there are numerous anecdotal success stories of people fighting cancer with the ketogenic diet. Joe Mancaruso, a 57-year-old Texas man, has been battling terminal lung cancer without chemotherapy using the ketogenic diet. “I am convinced I would not be here today if I had continued with chemo,” Mancaruso told me.
Dr. Seyfried says the time has come for the medical community to publicly acknowledge the viability of the ketogenic diet as an inexpensive, non-toxic way to treat cancer.
“The standard of care has been an abysmal failure for cancer,” said Seyfried. “The ketogenic diet may one day replace the standard of care for most cancers. To those who doubt me, I say: ‘Prove me wrong.'”