Could A Ketogenic Diet Combat Cancer?

| May 26, 2017

Naturopathic therapists have long held that sugar can feed cancer. And, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post here, recent research findings show that high blood sugar levels really do trigger a rapid growth in cancer cells. These cells can sense when blood sugar levels are high and turn on a metabolic switch, allowing them to take in more sugar, and so grow and multiply faster.

So, it would seem logical that keeping blood sugar levels low, by following a ketogenic diet, could help prevent or slow the progress of at least some kinds of cancer. A ketogenic diet, high in fat and protein, contains insufficient carbohydrate for the body to get its energy needs from burning glucose, so it must break down fat and use products called ketone bodies for energy instead.

But, when talking about potential approaches to tackling cancer, one is always walking on thin ice – as Domini Kemp and Patricia Daly, authors of a book called The Ketogenic Kitchen, recently discovered. The two authors, both of whom have come through cancer themselves, have fallen foul of the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI), which says their claim that a ketogenic diet could have a therapeutic effect in cancer is unfounded.

So, what exactly does “unfounded” mean in this case? Kemp and Daly firmly believe that following a ketogenic diet helped them to survive cancer. Domini Kemp explains on her website how this way of eating saved her from losing her sight and also helped shrink a secondary tumour that wasn’t responding to radiotherapy.

And a look at the scientific literature shows dozens of studies that support the anticancer effects of a ketogenic diet. These include patients with malignant brain tumours and advanced stages of cancer. It’s the sort of evidence that could get a new drug approved and onto the market in no time.

But there is still controversy. While one expert review, in 2015, concluded that “dietary carbohydrate restriction, particularly ketogenic diets, may provide benefit as a therapeutic or preventive strategy in cancer”1, another review published in May this year decided that evidence of this effect was “missing”2 – which in turn prompted other researchers to write to the journal’s editor, complaining that this latest review was misleading.3,4

A ruling that helps nobody but Big Pharma

While the experts take sides in this debate, let’s go back to The Ketogenic Kitchen. Who brought the initial complaint against its anti-cancer message to the ASAI? It turns out that it was the Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, the professional organisation for dietitians in Ireland. An organisation that works closely with mainstream medicine and pharmaceutical companies.

And what is the effect of the ASAI’s ruling, which is being hotly contested by Kemp and Daly? Does it really protect the public from a bogus claim for a cancer cure, or does it deprive them of access to information that could benefit their health? One thing is sure, if a ketogenic diet really does help in the fight against cancer, it will be bad news for Big Pharma and their exorbitantly expensive cancer drugs. We can be sure they will do everything they can to stifle or discredit such findings.

Talking of her own experience with cancer, Domini Kemp points out: “Patients need to feel hope and feel empowered. They should be able to contribute to their well-being through exercise and nutrition that suits them.” It seems to me the only people the ASAI’s ruling empowers are the drugs companies and their tame medical practitioners.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, cancer cells can detect high blood sugar levels. And it now seems that muscle cells can “taste” sugar too, playing a role in blood sugar regulation, as I explain in my next blog post.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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1. Fine EJ, Feinman RD. Insulin, carbohydrate restriction, metabolic syndrome and cancer. Expert Rev Endocrinol Metab. 2015; 10(1):15-24. 

2. Erickson N, Boscheri A, Linke B, Huebner J. Systematic review: isocaloric ketogenic dietary regimes for cancer patients. Med Oncol. 2017; 34(5):72. 

3. Klement RJ, Feinman RD, Gross EC et al. Need for new review of article on ketogenic dietary regimes for cancer patients. Med Oncol. 2017; 34(6):108. 

4. Gonder U. Article on ketogenic dietary regimes for cancer highly misleading. Med Oncol. 2017; 34(6):109.

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