The Ketogenic diet and cancer – part 8 of 8

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Ketogenic Diet News(NaturalHealth365) In my previous article, I addressed the “ketogenic enthusiasts,” as I call them, who appear to be promoting the ketogenic diet as a cancer treatment despite the lack of convincing human data. Here, in this final installment in the series, I want to offer my perspective on why the ketogenic diet, in practice and in theory, most likely won’t work for most patients.

Editor’s Note: To access the entire series of articles, anytime, simply visit the Ketogenic Diet and Cancer section of our website,

First, as Weston Price proved 70 years ago in his exhaustive epidemiological study, over the millennia different groups of humans adjusted to different types of diets, depending on the locale in which they lived and the available food therein, ranging from high carb to virtual no carb. Though Dr. Price was not evaluating dietary treatments as such for disease, his point should nonetheless be well taken – different humans (for optimal health) need different diets.

In terms of our specific discussion, diet as cancer treatment, Dr. Kelley demonstrated more recently in his Dallas, Texas, and Winthrop, Washington offices, no one diet suits all patients diagnosed with the disease, quite the contrary. Over a 20 year period working in the trenches treating many thousands of people, Dr. Kelley came to learn that each patient who walked into his office required a diet designed specifically for his or her metabolic needs, and these dietary requirements could vary enormously from patient to patient.

Unknown to most, even within the alternative world, my friend Bob Atkins tried the ketogenic diet for some 12 years on many of his cancer patients, with no significant success as he reported to me. As a telling point, under the name “Dr. Robert Atkins” on Amazon, one will find dozens of books he authored including his original diet book, its many incarnations and editions, along with books on vitamins, minerals – but glaringly absent, no book on cancer. Yes, the ketogenic diet has been tried before, with cancer patients, and without success.

I also might offer a thought as to why, from a more esoteric, more biochemical perspective, for most people diagnosed with cancer the ketogenic diet might not work. For the past 150 years, researchers have approached cancer as a disease in which perfectly happy, normal mature cells sitting in some tissue somewhere suddenly go awry, lose their normal regulatory restraint, develop a primitive, undifferentiated appearance or phenotype, begin proliferating without restraint, begin invading through tissues and organs, begin migrating, spreading, creating new blood vessels along the way to feed the rapacious appetite of cancer. But over the past 15 years, gradually, a new, more productive, and I believe more truthful hypothesis has emerged, spearheaded particularly by Dr. Max Wicha at the University of Michigan. Scientists such as Dr. Wicha have discovered that cancer may be a little more complicated than we have thought these long decades.

In recent years stem cells have been a hot topic in the research world, and a hot topic, for better or worse, in the media. These headline-grabbing stem cells are primitive undifferentiated cells, located as nests in every tissue and organ in the body, that serve as a reserve supply to replace cells in the tissue or organ lost due to normal turnover (as in the bone marrow or along the intestinal lining), disease, injury, or cell death.

In this way, stem cells allow complex life to exist and continue, providing tissue replacements as needed, appropriate for the tissue in which they live. That is, liver stem cells will create new liver cells as needed, bone marrow stem cells will create new bone marrow clones as required, intestinal stem cells will form, as necessary, intestinal lining cells. In this way, the developmental capacity of stem cells seems to be governed by the local environment.

After stem cells were discovered in the 1960s, scientists initially thought that they had a limited repertoire, that is, liver stem cells can only create more liver cells, but not bone marrow or intestinal cells, bone marrow stem cells can only create more bone marrow cells, but not liver cells, and so on. But we now know that isn’t the case.

Stem cells, wherever they may be found, can adapt quite nicely, and are far more flexible than originally believed. In laboratory animals, a liver stem cell placed into the bone marrow starts creating not liver, but bone marrow cells, a bone marrow stem cell transplanted into the liver begins to generate not bone marrow, but liver cells. The environment appears to be the key, ultimately determining the direction of stem cell development.

In terms of cancer specifically, many scientists believe that the disease does not develop from normal healthy cells that for some reason go molecularly berserk, but from stem cells that have lost their normal regulatory controls, creating in turn the disease we know as cancer.

Like any normal tissue or organ, in a tumor these cancer stem cells generate a variety of cell types that can mature to some extent, but the stem cells remain always primitive, undifferentiated, capable of replicating endlessly, capable of killing eventually. Most standard therapies fail, Dr. Wicha and his associates believe, because they attack the more mature tumor line, not the essential tumor stem cells, the actual engines of cancer creation.

Dr. Seyfried makes the case that normal stem cells, like cancer cells, are obligatory glucose consumers, relying solely on anaerobic glycolysis for the energy needed for survival. I agree, to a point. But I will also make the case that as with normal stem cells, cancer stem cells are very flexible, capable of adjusting to the local environment.

If deprived of oxygen, stem cells happily will turn to glycolysis as the main source of ATP energy. In an oxygen rich environment, I believe these stem cells can adapt accordingly, recoupling at least to some extent glycolysis to the citric acid cycle and electron transport, with great efficiency, and in terms of cancer, with deadly results.

Some years ago, a patient of mine, a professor at a well-known university, became interested in oxygenation therapies for cancer, used widely in the Mexican Clinics. These “oxygen” treatments were an offshoot of Dr. Warburg’s work, i.e., that cancer cells as obligatory anaerobes can synthesize needed energy supplies only via glycolysis. Therefore, the theory goes, in the presence of oxygen, particularly ozone, a form of hyped up oxygen, cancers cells, unlike normal cells, will be poisoned.

My professor patient seemed quite taken by the ozone approach, which he thought I should start implementing in my practice. However, I become somewhat doubtful about the theory, and the use of ozone as a treatment for cancer. At the time I had already taken care of dozens of patients who prior to consulting with me had been to the Mexican Clinics to receive ozone along with other treatments.

All seemed to have initial good responses followed by explosive return of their malignancy. I explained to my professor patient that I believed cancer stem cells could quickly adapt to oxygen, despite what the Warburgians might claim.

At about this time, ironically, this professor’s dog developed a very aggressive sarcoma, for which standard treatments were of no avail. Enchanted by oxygenation therapies, he actually bought an ozone generating machine meant for rectal installation, which he began, against my advice, using on his most patient dog.

After two weeks, the large tumors, quite evident to the naked eye, regressed substantially, to the professor’s great joy. He called me with the good news, and in a collegial sense, suggested he might be teaching me, the cancer expert, something new. I told him to wait before we came to a conclusion.

Unfortunately, some four weeks later, the professor called me again, reporting sadly that after the initial miraculous response, the tumors had recurred with a vengeance, and the dog had quickly succumbed.

It’s an interesting story but of course just that, a story that I fully acknowledge proves nothing, though in my mind it does illustrate how adaptable cancer cells, specifically cancer stem cells can be. It is a good lesson, for all of us, before we tout the next great cancer miracle.

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About the author: Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez graduated from Brown University (Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude), and worked as a journalist before receiving his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College. During a fellowship under Dr. Robert Good, former President of Sloan-Kettering, Dr. Gonzalez evaluated an enzyme-based nutritional therapy for use against advanced cancer, as documented in his book One Man Alone. Since 1987, Dr. Gonzalez has been in practice in New York. His other books include, “The Trophoblast and the Origins of Cancer”, and “What Went Wrong” – which portrays Dr. Gonzalez’s battle to have his therapy tested in an NCI clinical study. For more information about Dr. Gonzalez – visit:

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  • Marston Schultz

    I have been a follower of Dr. Gonzalez’s work for some time. I have his video “What Should I Eat” in which he discusses the work of Donald Kelly and how Kelly developed metabolic typing to determine the appropriate diet protocol for each of his patients. I share this video with all who will listen. I just had a friend die of cancer. I tried to get him to see Dr. Gonzalez but unfortunately was unsuccessful. I’m sure that under Dr. Gonzalez’s care he could have lived at least another 10 or 15 years. I am convinced that metabolic typing as used by Dr. Kelly and now Dr Gonzalez is the foundation for rebuilding the health of the individual. To that end I would like to find my metabolic type, as a preventative measure, in order to insure that I never get Cancer. I know that Dr. Gonzalez uses his own version of a blood test and hair analysis to determine the metabolic type of his patience.
    So, my question to Dr. Gonzalez is, how can I find my metabolic type without paying the necessary fees to become his patient. I’m sure I would be considered a low priority patient anyway, since I have not yet been diagnosed with cancer. Have you considered setting up a “preventative protocol” department of your office that would do your proprietary testing for metabolic typing for people like myself? People could ship blood and hair samples with overnight delivery. I have done this to a lab for a blood test for allergies.

    Thank you for this article and all the good work you do.

    • David

      There are a number of metabolic typing questionnaires floating around. There is one in the book called Metabolic Type. I’ve also used the Oxidizer Test in clinical practice and believe it has merit for at least a starting point. The eat right for your blood type can also give some indication but is rather cumbersome to implement. I’m a believer in trial and error by the individual as what is best. Unfortunately many are swayed one way or another by reading on the internet, family upbringing, religious affiliation.. etc. I have great respect for Dr. Gonzalez, as I studied his works back in late 1999 to 2000 when my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He ended up visiting with him as a patient. He extended his survival no doubt with some of the therapies. I’m now a physician finding myself trying to help patients implement a healthy adaptation of the keto like diet. The problem with much of the criticism of the ketogenic diet for cancer is that it is looking at the past use of the diet that was extreme and lacked the use of sensible nutritional support and balance. There is no diet to cure cancer…but rather a lifestyle and well rounded approach…that might make you live longer what ever happens with the cancer. There is also the advent of exogenous ketones that are showing good promise clinically. Again, not a cure-all but a tool.

  • Austin

    What a great article. I encourage its study by all who are concerned about what we call “cancer”.

  • Jerome Burne

    Hi sure you have been over this a lot and I’m well aware that any medic who deviates from conventional cancer therapies will be heavily attacked but…

    Just wondering what your response to this demolition of Kelly and yourself on this “quackwatch” site: quackwatch. org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Cancer/kg.html

    • bibo

      in the article in the above link, at the end, conclusions are drawn about the discussion going on there. What is absent from these conclusions are the (number of) people who were cured. Actually, the most important figure out there.

      • Jerome Burne

        Are you saying that only very vague figures are available for both ketogenic diet and for Dr Gonzalez’s, if so I agree.
        Good to have some response to the quack charges – predictable I know but some are very specific.

        • Evangelina Aguilar

          The quack charges, i would not put any attention to it..there are hundreds of testimonies on what Dr. Gonzalez therapies are doing to heal from cancer.. the guy who runs the quack website is well paid by the big pharma, just follow the money trail, is easy to do… any doctor who does natural medicine, or alternative will be heavily attacked by the quack and the big pharma and or fda.. and any of us who have healed from cancer or are healing, will also be attacked even so we are living testimony of the healing……… I do think Dr. Gonzalez has figures on the cases he works with.. and as for the keto diet, there are some cancers that are healed by it, but as he puts it it is not for all, in fact for very few.. there are testimonies and i can send you the links…

          • wazo

            Would you share the links please Evangelina Aguilar

  • pm

    That cancer cells, “stem cells” gone awry, can adapt to oxygen and alkaline environments is startling news to me.

    This definitely questions cancer definitions and the ultimate effectiveness of many cancer treatment protocols in alternative medicine.