The pervasive notion spreading around the internet regarding sugar, the ketogenic diet cancer confusion, and in some cases, actual harm to cancer patients. As human beings we tend to latch upon simplistic ideas that do not have any real scientific support. It requires effort to go beneath the surface and understand how these myths develop and to dig a little deeper into the science that supports or refutes these simplistic ideas. The ketogenic diet only serves to allow individuals to continue their habit of consuming animal products. It is an extremely unhealthful diet that will lead to many different chronic diseases including kidney failure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and others. NORI has always and forever will recommend a low-fat whole foods plant-based diet. The science on the benefits of a plant-based is growing exponentially.
The Ketogenic Diet Cancer Myth
The ketogenic diet is another term for a high-fat low-carbohydrate diet that resembles the old and worn out high protein Atkin’s style diet. A ketogenic diet is 70% or more calories as fat with no fruit or carbohydrates. Suggested foods are dairy products, eggs, bacon, meats and seafood. Non-starchy vegetables are included.
The limited studies on the ketogenic diet related to cancer involve a very high fat diet with a very small proportion of protein. Protein is made up of amino acids that cancer cells require to grow and divide. Starvation of building blocks for protein synthesis is a much more reliable metabolic approach to cancer treatment. Starving cancer cells of energy is extremely difficult because of multiple sources for energy production including fats and amino acids. Glucose is not the only source of energy for cancer cells.
The Sugar and Cancer Myth
Let’s start by defining sugar, which exists in many different forms. Glucose is what is known as blood sugar and is always present in the blood stream at all times. Otherwise, we would be dead or unconscious. All cells run on glucose as their primary energy source. In normal cells, glucose is converted to pyruvate which enters into the TCA cycle which generates the great majority of energy for the cell. The TCA cycle takes place within the mitochondria.
Refined sugar is what is derived from sugar cane or sugar beets. These are the pure white crystals used in sodas, ice cream, pastries, candies and table sugar. These foods are universally agreed upon to be detrimental to health when consumed in excess. They do not cause type II diabetes. Excess fat in the diet is the cause of insulin resistance which is what we call type II diabetes. Too much insulin promotes tumor growth.
Fact: Cancer cells exhibit an elevated metabolism of glucose.
Fiction: Sugar causes cancer and feeds cancer cell growth.
Fact: Excesses of refined sugar causes elevated insulin which stimulates faster tumor growth.
Fact: Cancer cells metabolize glutamine at a high level for energy.
Fiction: Cancer cells can be starved of glucose causing a limitation in energy production.
Fact: Consuming animal products raises IGF-1 which is a major tumor growth promoter.
Fact: Animal products are very high in methionine which stimulates the mTOR signaling pathway which promotes faster tumor growth.
Way too many cancer patients have come to NORI wondering why the ketogeinc diet made them feel sick, elevated their tumor markers and caused their tumors to grow faster. NORI recommends considering a methionine restricted diet as the best dietary foundation for any form of cancer treatment. A methionine restricted diet is easy to implement. Please feel free to contact NORI for guidance on implementing a methionine restricted diet through one of our nutritional support programs.