The Ketogenic Diet - Cancer Treatment

After heart disease cancer is the second most lethal disease that plight our populations. We all are aware of the fact that the war on cancer has been a failure and thousands of people die every year as conventional system does not have anything effective when it comes to either prevention or treatment of cancer. There is however, great nutritional evidence on the fact that not only 'We are what we eat' in the terms of prevention but what we eat itself is the cure.

The ketogenic diet, which refers to a no carb diet with high fat and protein ratio has helped many cancer patients to gain health even when conventional system has no hope of recovery. Ketogenic diet is one which replaces carbohydrates with healthy fats and high quality protein. This diet limits use of fructose, sugar and processed food which gives a prophylactic turn in the bodily function of the individuals afflicted with cancer.

In 2011 Dr. Klement and Dr. Kammerer published a comprehensive review of the literature that involved dietary carbohydrates and their effect on cancer cells. The study was published in the journal, Nutrition and Metabolism. They found that if one reduce carbohydrates in diet, one could suppress or delay the progression of cancer and will prevent proliferation of the already present cancer cells.

Dec. 3, 2012 — a team of brain cancer researchers at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center has effectively treated brain tumor cells using a unique combination of diet and radiation therapy. The study, “The Ketogenic Diet Is an Effective Adjuvant to Radiation Therapy for the Treatment of Malignant Glioma,” was published in PLOS ONE.

Led by Adrienne C. Scheck, PhD, Principal Investigator in Neuro-Oncology and Neurosurgery Research at Barrow, the groundbreaking research studied the effects of the ketogenic diet in addition with radiation therapy for the treatment of malignant gliomas, an aggressive and deadly type of brain tumor.

How Does Ketogenic Diet Starve Cancer Cells?
Dr. D’Agostino explains how the ketogenic diet can have such a dramatic (and rapid) effect on cancer. All the cells of our body need glucose for survival including cancer cells. However, cancer cells have one drawback that they cannot have the metabolic flexibility as possessed by our regular body cells. Cancer cells cannot adapt themselves to feed on ketone bodies for energy as other healthy cells of our body. As cancer cells do not get food for survival they do not proliferate.

So, when we change our diet and add ketogenic diet our body cells start using fats and proteins for use than carbohydrates. This causes starvation of the cancer cells as we are no longer supplying the necessary fuel that is glucose in our body. Due to absence of glucose, less insulin is secreted which in-turn further prevents proliferation of cancer cells in your body.

How Can a Ketogenic Diet Help Cancer Treatment?
The transition from carbohydrate rich diet to ketone bodies as an energy source has been used from the time of our ancestors to adapt to non-availability of food and this allows the survival of normal cells during extreme shifts in nutritional environment. Many researchers wonder how a ketogenic diet can help in the cancer treatment. There are several theories in this regard; some important mechanisms that take place are given here:

Tumour cells or cancer cells require carbohydrates or sugar for survival and growth. Ketogenic diet restricts the availability of glucose for the cancer cells. Many years ago Otto Warburg stated that cancer cells require glucose for survival and any process that can limit the supply of glucose can prevent growth of cancer cells.  Recent data from different universities, including Johns Hopkins have shown that in brain tumors, the higher a patients blood glucose level, the lower their survival.

Another study shows that cancer cells become active due to deficient and defective mitochondria. Mitochondria are cell organelles present in every cell of our body and they derive their energy from proteins and fats. Cancer cells derive their energy from the breakdown of glucose and our body cells also do that when oxygen is insufficient. Ketogenic diet helps our body to depend upon mitochondria for energy. Another important function performed by mitochondria is that they kill the cells that are malfunctioning. In other words, mitochondria do housekeeping for our body that helps to eliminate cancerous cells.

Cancer cells possess receptors such as insulin growth factor receptor. Insulin growth factor binds to this, as can insulin, which is released by the pancreas to regulate carbohydrate metabolism. Insulin is responsible for activating certain pathways that enhance the growth of cancer cells.  A recent study in advanced cancer patients confirmed the ability of a ketogenic diet to significantly decrease the insulin pathway in tumor cells.

The UNM School of Medicine offers this dietary advice:
As examples, a typical meal might include some type of meat with green vegetables cooked with a mayonnaise sauce or a lot of butter. Heavy cream may be included on the side for drinking. Another meal might consist of bacon and eggs with a lot of butter or oil added, and heavy cream to drink. A very high ratio of fats to carbohydrates must be maintained with a low total calorie intake for the diet to be successful.

Herbs and specific foods for cancer prevention
Current conventional cancer treatment involves chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy includes poisonous drugs for the human body, and radiation is devastating to the human body. More often than not, the treatment is what eventually kills the patient.

Certain foods and culinary herbs are known to have insulinotrophic actions that help in balancing blood insulin and glucose levels. Bitter melon (Momordica charantia), Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), and common herbs like cinnamon, rosemary, and sage have properties that help to balance blood glucose levels naturally.

A qualified naturopath should be a part of any cancer treatment, because natural remedies not just help in prevention but aid in quick 'natural' recovery. Always consult a naturopath or a nutritionist before making dietary alterations.

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