Ketogenic Diet – Cancer Treatment
by Dr. Andrew Dickens, NMD
Most Americans today are what are called “sugar burners.” They consume a lot of sugar – either directly as sweets (think soda, cookies, candy), or as starchy, refined carbohydrates that turn into sugar quickly once eaten (think bread, pasta, chips).
But sugar is a “dirty fuel.” When your body burns sugar for its primary fuel, bigger amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS) are created, which generate bigger amounts of free radicals. Excess free radicals act like internal terrorists. They can damage the mitochondria and DNA, and they can impair cell membranes and proteins. People who are sugar burners also tend to eat foods with bad fats – inflammatory omega-6 oils like refined corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed oil.
Inside each of the 80 trillion or so cells that make up our bodies are tiny mitochondria — our energy factories. Hundreds or thousands of them are inside each cell. Healthy cells tend to have many more mitochondria than cancerous cells.
Mitochondria are where the food we eat gets turned into energy to power everything we do, whether it is the work our organs do, or the power we use to walk and lift things. If it takes energy, the tiny mitochondria provide it.
Mitochondria are designed to run primarily on fat. You get MORE energy per molecule of fat than sugar. When your body metabolizes fats (breaks them down), energy units called ketones are produced. Ketones are also able to cross over the blood brain barrier to provide energy for neurons in the brain.
Because we have mitochondria, we are designed to be burning fat for energy. Ketones are a “clean fuel.” No insulin is required for their metabolism. They produce far fewer free radicals. They have an anti-inflammatory effect. They have beneficial effects on cell signaling systems that profoundly benefit health. Ketones also stimulate cells to produce more and healthier mitochondria.
Think of how many chronic and autoimmune diseases have an energy deficit component: cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis… It could be said these are the diseases of sugar burners.
Dr. Otto Warburg, a physician and biochemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1931, discovered that cancer cells possess a unique metabolism. Tumor cells obtain their energy by fermenting the sugar into lactic acid. Simply put, cancer cells prefer to run on sugar; healthy cells prefer to run on fat.
The therapeutic purpose of the ketogenic diet is to starve cancer cells of sugar.
Diets that are very low in carbohydrates (30-50 grams daily) and moderate in protein (0.8-1.2g/kg) can produce ketones in higher levels. Research has shown that the body adapts to ketone metabolism and improves the efficiency of this fuel source over time. The specific liver hormone, FGF21, which is critical for the oxidation of the liver’s fatty acids, is upregulated in individuals who are on a ketogenic diet over time. This allows for a greater use of ketones as an energy source in the body. On a ketogenic diet, the body can adapt from being a sugar burner to being a fat burner.
At Dayspring, patients work one-on-one with our nutritionist to make the shift to the fat burning ketogenic diet. We take the guesswork out of it and give you personal meal plans.
What will you be eating on a ketogenic diet? It depends upon your particular needs, but here’s a general idea (and all organic whenever possible): berries, kiwi, olives, all kinds of leafy greens, sprouts, asparagus, green beans, onions, garlic, artichoke, eggplant, bell peppers, sweet potato, jicama, tomatoes, avocados, guacamole, cabbage, herbs, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans, almonds, macadamia nuts, sour cream and cream cheese (if you are okay with dairy), butter, ghee, raw cheeses, nut butters, coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, MTC oil, coconut water kefir, coconut milk, fermented foods, perhaps grassfed meats and game, pastured eggs and chicken, wild caught fish, bone broths, lemons and limes, almond and coconut flour, smoothies, sea salt, raw cacao, stevia, organic coffee and tea, dark chocolate, and the occasional glass of wine.
You will not be hungry!
Roughly speaking, you’ll get 70 to 80 percent of your calories from fat, about 20 percent from protein, and about 5 to 10 percent from carbs. You don’t have to count calories or weigh portions. Our nutritionist will make the transition easy.
 Ketogenic diets as an adjuvant cancer therapy: History and potential mechanism National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2014 August 7;2014; 2: 963–970.