The Ketogenic diet and cancer – part 8 of 8
(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, NaturalHealth365.com
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: Dr-Gonzalez.com
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