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High fat low carb diets can be used to battle cancer or turbocharge weight loss

Find out how a special diet can battle cancer.
Find out how a special diet can battle cancer.
Photo by Darren McCollester

What would you do if you received a diagnosis of terminal cancer? For Joe Mancaruso, who has survived previous bouts with the disease, the solution comes not from conventional medicine but from the use of a high fat low carb ketogenic diet, reported the TXMMA News on Monday.

Joe has a long history as a survivor. After a diagnosis of testicular cancer in 1985, he underwent two surgeries and four rounds of chemo. Following a recurrence in 1987, Joe experienced remission and subsequently celebrated his health by learning the mixed martial arts (MMA) form of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

But after six years of practicing MMA, Joe received a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer. "I have never been a smoker and there is no obvious cause," he reflected.

To fight back, Joe adapted the high fat low carb ketogenic diet. He also takes supplements.

"I eat mostly healthy fats avocados, olives, coconut oil and nuts," he explained. In addition, he consumes bacon, butter and cheese and drinks matcha green tea.

Joe's supplement selection ranges from fish oil to milk thistle to melatonin. He credits "Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds" for guiding him along his nutritional path.

But ketogenic diets can do more than help combat cancer, says University of Cape Town sports scientist Professor Tim Noakes. He believes that they are ideally designed for accelerating weight loss, he told the Biz News on Tuesday.

Moreover, emphasizes Noakes, it's not necessary to maintain nutritional ketosis in order to benefit from the weight loss aspects of the low carb high fat (LCHF) diet. And he's concerned about the way many people assume it involves plates of beef topped with bacon.

"It is not high protein. It is high fat, low carbohydrate and moderate protein only. The diet can be ketogenic, but doesn’t have to be," clarified Noakes, author of "Challenging Beliefs: Memoirs of a Career."

Noakes explained what's unique about a ketogenic diet. It is "so low in carbohydrate and protein (protein will act as a partial carbohydrate), and high in fat, it causes blood ketones to rise."

And for those who have cancer or another condition, a ketogenic diet can help, says Noakes. "The more sick you are, the more ketogenic you need to be. If you just want to lose some weight, or run better, your diet doesn’t have to be ketogenic."

As for the view that eating fat causes heart disease, Noakes notes that hypothesis has no evidence supporting it. Moreover, a new book has denounced that view.

"No one has ever proven that cholesterol in the blood causes heart disease. It’s an assumption based on epidemiology, and is destroyed in 'The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.'"

In addition to praising the revelations about the rewards of high fat low carb diets in "Big Fat Surprise," Noakes lauds the work of Eric Westman, Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney, co-authors of "New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great."

These low-carb diet experts have conducted extensive research showing that high fat low carb diets can accelerate weight loss while improving health markers such as cholesterol levels. Moreover, for athletes, the diet provides an efficient and effective form of fuel.

Volek and Phinney have completed numerous studies validating the use of LCHF diets for athletes ranging from weekend joggers to marathon runners. They describe their work in "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance."

As for the future of using diet for cancer? "Scientists must realize that cancer is a nutritional disease and carbohydrate-dependent, and will need to work out ways to starve cancer cells of glucose," says Noakes.

His prediction: "The person who does that will win the Nobel Prize. Cancer scientists who continue to say it is not caused primarily by nutritional factors will be left behind. It’s their choice."

In the interim, some cancer patients are conducting their own research. Among them is Alix Hayden, who blogs about her own use of a high fat low carb ketogenic diet after she was diagnosed with brain cancer.

"In July 2012 I was a healthy, mid thirties, active and busy executive and stepmom. In August 2012, I was diagnosed with brain cancer," Alix wrote on her blog entitled GreyMadder.

"It would take me eight months to re-identify as a healthy woman living with cancer," she added. She's now become a courageous voice for others, from recommending books to asking open-ended questions about "the importance of the glucose to ketone ratio."

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