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Low Carb Ketogenic Diet Can Fight Cancer, Says Physician

The ketogenic diet shows promise to manage metastatic cancer.

The ketogenic diet shows promise to manage cancer, say scientists.

Urologist Dr. Eugene J. Fine is among the growing number of medical experts who say ketogenic diet shows potential to fight cancer.

Dr. Fine, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, has done research on humans that show encouraging preliminary results. “The ketogenic diet shows promise as a way to manage some cancers,” Dr. Fine told me in an exclusive interview.

Fine echoed some of the sentiments of Dr. Thomas Seyfried, whose decades of research at Boston College has shown that a ketogenic diet can starve cancer.

“The standard of care has been an abysmal failure for cancer,” said Dr. Seyfried, author of Cancer as a Metabolic Disease. “The ketogenic diet may one day replace the standard of care for most cancers.”

Cancer Cells Thrive On Sugar

All the cells in our body can use both fat and glucose to survive, but cancer cells thrive on glucose and cannot survive on ketones. So by limiting carbohydrates (which turns into glucose inside the body), we can starve cancer cells.

Interestingly, this phenomenon was first observed in the 1920s by German physiologist Otto Warburg, who won a Nobel Prize in 1931 for discovering that the root cause of cancer is oxygen deficiency, and that cancer cells thrive on sugar.

Widescale research has not been done on the use of ketogenic diets to fight cancer since then, partly because of the entrenched government-sanctioned low-fat diet dogma that has historically promoted a high-carb diet.

Dr. Fine said it’s premature to suggest the ketogenic diet can be a cancer “cure,” but underscored that a very-low-carb diet has proven effective in fighting degenerative illnesses, including epilepsy, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

In fact, a ketogenic diet has proven effective at controlling epileptic seizures among children who don’t respond to drugs, and has been shown to reverse type 2 diabetes. Surprisingly, the low-carb ketogenic diet has also been shown to improve performance for endurance athletes, who have historically followed high-carb diets.

Unlike Chemotherapy, Keto Diet Is Non-Toxic

The beauty of using the ketogenic diet to fight cancer is that it’s non-toxic and inexpensive, unlike chemotherapy, which makes patients violently ill and costs a fortune. And, it doesn’t kill cancer patients the way chemo does. Ironically, research suggests that chemo actually kills more people than it cures.

Fine was encouraged by the results he saw during a 10-patient pilot study he conducted last year at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y., in collaboration with Dr. Richard Feinman, a biochemistry professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

The patients all had advanced cancers and agreed to follow a ketogenic diet (which limited daily carb intake to less than 50 grams) for 28 days. The results indicated that six of the 10 patients responded fairly well to the ketogenic diet, meaning their cancers stabilized or showed partial remission.

While the results may not sound dramatic, it was encouraging that the best results occurred in patients who had the most reduction of their insulin secretion. Effects on insulin might be an important clue to indicate which patients are likeliest to respond to this kind of diet.

“The research indicates that the ketogenic diet warrants a larger, long-term study to determine its use as a weapon against cancer,” said Fine.

So far, there are numerous anecdotal success stories. Joe Mancaruso, a 57-year-old Texas man, told me he 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,” said Mancaruso.

Similarly, Elaine Cantin discussed how she used the ketogenic diet to manage her son’s type I diabetes and her own aggressive breast cancer in her book, The Cantin Ketogenic Diet.

There are currently several ongoing research studies examining the ketogenic diet’s impact as a cancer fighter. Those results will determine whether the medical community will adopt metabolic therapy to treat cancer in the future.

For now, Dr. Fine is encouraged by the growing acceptance of a low-carb diet as a tool against obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and is optimistic that these diets will emerge as having a useful role in the fight against cancer.

Related: Ketogenic diet beats chemotherapy for almost all cancers, says Thomas Seyfried