Progress in cancer treatment has been postponed for more than a decade. In recent years, more and more scientists and enthusiasts assume that we are looking for answers in the wrong place. We will explain why, slowly but surely, how experts are returning to the treatment of cancer as a disease of cell metabolism, and what the ketogenic diet has to do with it.
This article is not a recommendation for action or medical advice and is written solely for educational purposes. Consult a doctor for treatment.
The ketogenic diet for cancer treatment
A healthy cell can burn fats and ketones. Cancer cells cannot use them because their mitochondria are damaged and inactive (fats and ketones can be consumed only in mitochondria). It is their apparent weakness compared to other body cells, and it is worth using. We will tell you how to fight cancer with a ketogenic diet: using a low-carb, fat-burning diet as a metabolic therapy. Stay with us to learn more.
Thomas Seyfried is a scientist and author of the famous science book “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease”, and Dominic D’Agostino is a scientist actively studying and popularizing a ketogenic diet. They developed a cancer therapy method, which they called Press-Pulse, by analogy with the name of the mass extinctions causes theory.
The essence of the Press-Pulse method for fighting cancer is to expose the cancer cells to constant stress, namely, to deprive food, using the ketogenic diet for cancer patients (Press), and to finish them off using hyperbaric oxygenation (Pulse).
Fasting and a calorie-restricted ketogenic diet do an excellent job of depriving cancer cells of nutrition. Both of them trigger ketosis and radically reduce the amount of glucose in the blood – the leading food for cancer. Since cancer cells are unable to feed on ketones and fatty acids, healthy cells gain a significant competitive advantage over them. Using the best exogenous ketones can help people to deepen the ketosis state and reach it faster.
It is not only about the quantity of food for the cells but also the quality. Cancer cells primarily eat glucose and produce a massive amount of reactive oxygen species (these include more widely known free radicals). These are molecules that damage the cell from the inside, reacting with everything they come across. Healthy cells consume ketones and produce much less reactive oxygen species. Not just smaller than cancer cells, but even smaller than healthy cells that feed on glucose. It turns out that cancer cells are subject to constant increased oxidative stress, and healthy cells, absorbing ketones, on the contrary, have it reduced.
Cancer cells poorly resist oxidative stress because they produce less natural antioxidants (glutathione), which neutralize reactive oxygen species.
What is the ketogenic diet for cancer?
Since in a state of ketosis, healthy cells are better protected from stress, and chemo and radiotherapy increase this stress for cancer cells, pre-starvation is a logical addition to traditional treatment methods. Even if fasting itself may not directly help treat the tumor, it can significantly alleviate the severe side effects of chemotherapy, as healthy cells are better protected. It also shows the beneficial connection between the ketogenic diet and brain health. Preliminary studies support this theory.
From around the 1950s, it became clear that cancer cells can ferment glucose and glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in the body. Glutamine is also involved in many processes that are directly or indirectly related to tumor growth. Its amount is difficult to regulate through a diet since the body produces it in sufficient quantities by itself, but with a calorie-restricted diet, its activity is still reduced.
In the Press-Pulse technique, a drug that inhibits the processing of glutamine by the cells can be added to the calorie-restricted ketogenic diet to increase stress. Although very toxic, this drug is effective in mice, slowing down the metastasis’s aggressiveness.
Since the effective mechanism of killing cancer cells works through oxidative stress, the idea suggests exposing weakened cancer cells to an even more aggressive effect of oxygen. For this, the hyperbaric oxygen procedure is used. Theoretically, it can even replace traditional cancer treatments, as it is not as toxic as chemotherapy. At the moment, the mechanism of this procedure concerning tumor cells is not fully understood. Still, likely, they are even more saturated with reactive oxygen species, which increases the likelihood of death of these cells due to oxidative stress.
During the hyperbaric oxygenation procedure, a person is placed in a pressure chamber. The atmosphere in it consists practically of pure oxygen under high pressure, and the patient stays there for some time. There is a study of the Press-Pulse methodology authors, which shows that the use of hyperbaric oxygenation in combination with a ketogenic diet and ketones in the form of food additives significantly slows the growth of tumors and the formation of metastases in mice, doubling their life.
Oxygen and Ketones
Ketones from the point of view of oxidative stress are a very environmentally friendly fuel, since, during their processing, the least amount of reactive oxygen species is produced. It is one of the main advantages of ketosis in general because many negative processes are associated with oxidative stress, from difficult recovery after training to age changes. Even during the ketogenic diet for cancer patients, people are much more resistant to oxygen poisoning. Such poisoning occurs, for example, when breathing oxygen with high pressure (when using regenerative scuba gear). Its most common symptoms are sudden convulsions and loss of consciousness.
James Watson, who discovered the structure of the DNA molecule, even suggested that chemotherapy in some cases does not work as we think but through the mechanism of oxidative stress. He hypothesizes that under the influence of many chemotherapy drugs, such as Paclitaxel, and radiation therapy, cancer cells even more actively accumulate molecules of reactive oxygen species, which causes their damage and death.
Conclusion: What awaits the metabolic approach to cancer further?
The Press-Pulse technique is up-and-coming, but full-scale studies in humans have not yet been conducted. Also, such treatment methods today have little chance of being primary. They are prescribed only as an addition to traditional types of treatment. The fact is that doctors must follow specific rules and protocols issued by the authorities of different countries. If, for example, instead of chemotherapy or surgery, the oncologist prescribes hyperbaric therapy and ketogenic diet for brain recovery to the patient, and the patient does not recover, the doctor may be imprisoned. On the contrary, if the patient dies despite the traditional treatment, the doctor has done everything he can by law. Most doctors have no motivation to take risks.
But everything is not so hopeless, and indifferent clinics of the world are increasingly trying the new methods. In July 2017, a group of scientists from Turkey, with the participation of Thomas Seyfried, published a description of a case of severe stage IV breast cancer with metastases in the abdominal cavity in a middle-aged woman. She was prescribed chemotherapy, esupported by pre-fasting and insulin injections (to lower glucose), a ketogenic diet, hyperthermic therapy (heating the tumor), and hyperbaric oxygenation. After several months of such treatment, the woman is in remission. The result is simply amazing, but still, there are too few such studies.
Have you heard anything about the ketogenic diet cancer menu? Do not hesitate to share any information in the comments below.
Author’s bio: My name is Adam Reeve and I have been a professional personal trainer and fitness instructor for over 10 years. Also, I’m a life coach, wellness writer, and low carb diets, enthusiast.