The low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet can replace chemotherapy and radiation for even the deadliest of cancers, said Dr. Thomas Seyfried, a leading cancer researcher and professor at Boston College.
In an exclusive interview, Dr. Seyfried discussed why the ketogenic diet has not been embraced by the medical community to treat cancer despite its proven track record both clinically and anecdotally.
"The reason why the ketogenic diet is not being prescribed to treat cancer is purely economical," said Dr. Seyfried, author of Cancer as a Metabolic Disease. "Cancer is big business. There are more people making a living off cancer than there are dying of it."
According to Seyfried, the medical community is reluctant to publicly acknowledge the efficacy of the ketogenic diet for preventing and treating cancer because doing so would cut off the massive streams of revenue hospitals generate from chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
"It's a simple economic issue," said Seyfried. "There's no money in it for the hospitals, doctors, and drug companies to prescribe a ketogenic diet when they can make hundreds of millions of dollars from the standard of care. Radiation therapy is a huge revenue generator for hospitals."
Dr. Seyfried noted the ketogenic diet is a medical therapy that should be administered by trained professionals. "The keto diet can be harmful if administered incorrectly," he underscored.
Dr. Seyfried's decades of research indicate that cancer is a metabolic — not a genetic — disease. And the best way to treat a metabolic disorder is through diet, not by pumping a patient full of toxic radiation. Seyfried's study was recently published in the medical journal Carcinogenesis.
The problem with the traditional treatment of cancer, said Seyfried, is that the cancer community has approached it as a genetic disease, so much of the research efforts have gone into gene-focused studies, which he says does not address the root of the problem.
Dr. Seyfried isn't the only medical expert who holds this belief. In his ground-breaking 1996 book, Questioning Chemotherapy, Dr. Ralph Moss posited that radiation and chemotherapy have not proven they're effective treatments for cancer. If anything, radiation and chemo do nothing more than drain patients' retirement accounts and drastically reduce their quality of life.
Moss, who was fired the following year for going public with this information, made similar arguments in his 2014 follow-up book, Doctored Results, where he exposed an internal 48-page memo alleging that officials at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center had covered up and lied about a study concerning a natural, alternative cancer treatment called Laetrile.
Both Moss and Seyfried say chemo and radiation do not cure cancer or extend life, although cancer physicians often make this claim. If anything, radiation (which can cost $10,000 per dose every month) often does more harm than good to the patient.
Scientists say this is because when you irradiate a cancer patient, you're trying to kill off their malignant cancer cells, but in the process, you also damage surrounding healthy cells, setting the patient up for developing a "rebound" cancer down the line in some other part of their body.
This is why patients who successfully treat one form of cancer with chemo and radiation often develop a different type of cancer several years later.
In brain-cancer patients, radiation often causes the brain to swell, which is potentially deadly. However, the LCHF ketogenic diet has been shown to prevent brain swelling as well as keep the tumor from getting bigger — which is more than radiation often does.
Studies Show the Keto Diet Starves Cancer Cells
Dr. Seyfried, widely considered the godfather of the nutritional treatment of cancer, joins a growing number of researchers who say the ketogenic diet can treat most forms of cancer.
This is because nearly all the healthy cells in our body have the metabolic flexibility to use fat, glucose and ketones to survive, but cancer cells lack this metabolic flexibility and require large amounts of glucose and cannot survive on ketones. So by limiting carbohydrates (as the keto diet does) we can reduce glucose and insulin, and thus restrict the primary fuel for cancer cell growth.
While this idea may sound new to us lay people, scientists have been aware of this for the past 80 years. This phenomenon was first observed in the 1920s by German physiologist Otto Warburg, who won a Nobel Prize in 1931 for discovering that cancer cells have defective mitochondria and thrive on sugar.
The “Warburg effect” can be exploited by the ketogenic diet, but so far this approach has not been used to fight cancer. However, the tide may soon be turning. Today, there are about a dozen studies that are investigating the use of the ketogenic diet to manage all kinds of cancer.
Meanwhile, the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet has been shown to combat a variety of different diseases, including obesity, epilepsy, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and heart disease. "The ketogenic diet is a single metabolic approach to a multitude of different diseases," said Dr. Seyfried.
Seyfried joins a growing number of scientists who say the LCHF ketogenic diet is a promising alternative to the current standard of care. Dr. Dominic D'Agostino of the University of South Florida agrees cancer is a metabolic disease that can be managed with the ketogenic diet.
"Most cancer scientists have historically thought cancer was a genetic disease, but only 5-10% of cancer is hereditary," Dr. D'Agostino told me.
In 2012, urologist Dr. Eugene Fine conducted a 10-patient pilot study at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y. The patients all had advanced cancers and agreed to follow a ketogenic diet (which for limited daily carb intake to less than 50 grams) for 28 days.
The results indicated that six of the 10 patients responded well to the ketogenic diet, meaning their cancers stabilized or showed partial remission, Dr. Fine told me. Dr. Adrienne Scheck of the Barrow Brain Tumor Research Center also told me the ketogenic diet can be an effective tool to manage deadly brain cancer.
Dr. Scheck said KD might also be effective when combined with certain chemotherapies, and possibly with radiation therapy, and Seyfried agreed. Dr. Seyfried underscored the keto diet does not cure cancer, but can manage it.
Ketogenic Diet Can Replace Standard of Care
So far, there are numerous anecdotal success stories. Joe Mancaruso, a 56-year-old Texas man, told me he has been battling terminal lung cancer without chemotherapy using the ketogenic diet. "I am convinced I would not be here today if I had continued with chemo," said Mancaruso.
Similarly, Elaine Cantin discussed how she used the ketogenic diet to manage her son's type I diabetes and her own aggressive breast cancer in her book, The Cantin Ketogenic Diet.
"The cancer research community needs to change its view of cancer as a metabolic — not a genetic — disease in order to make meaningful progress," said Travis Christofferson, author of Tripping Over the Truth: The Metabolic Theory of Cancer.
Dr. Seyfried says the time has come for the medical community to publicly acknowledge the viability of the ketogenic diet as an inexpensive, non-toxic way to treat cancer.
"The standard of care has been an abysmal failure for cancer," said Dr. Seyfried. "The ketogenic diet may one day replace the standard of care for most cancers. To those who doubt me, I say: 'Prove me wrong.'"