Treating cancer used to mean a long, painful struggle with chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, but more scientists now say cancer patients can metabolically manage their tumors with the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet.
Dr. Dominic D'Agostino is among the cutting-edge group of medical experts who are sold on the benefits of managing cancer through metabolic diet therapy.
In an exclusive interview, Dr. D'Agostino explained how the ketogenic diet can be a powerful weapon against cancer.
"There are many people choosing to manage their cancers through metabolic therapy, especially after they have failed standard care treatments," said Dr. D'Agostino, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology.
"During the last year, ClinicalTrials.gov has listed an emerging number of cancer studies that incorporate the ketogenic diet, suggesting that mainstream medicine is starting to accept this approach."
Dr. D'Agostino has been in touch with a number of cancer patients over the years who have successfully used the ketogenic diet to manage their cancer, sometimes with standard care, and often after failure of standard care approaches.
He recommends that patients first seek the proper resources (e.g. books) and advice (e.g. ketogenic diet consultants) before embarking on a ketogenic diet. Cancer cells thrive on a high-carb diet — and especially sugar — so patients who drastically restrict carbs can restrict the growth of tumors, and in some cases, force their cancers into remission. The approach also makes cancer cells more vulnerable against other forms of cancer therapy (standard and alternative approaches).
According to Dr. D'Agostino, nearly all the cells in our body can use both fat and glucose (a carb), but cancer cells thrive on glucose and cannot survive on ketones.
So by limiting carbohydrates (which turns into glucose inside the body), we can limit glucose availability to starve cancer cells. This tumor inhibiting effect of the ketogenic diet is further enhanced with calorie restriction, which helps to further lower blood glucose and insulin levels.
While the exact origin of cancer can't be pinpointed, emerging data suggests that cancer is a metabolic disease, and that metabolic health — which is influenced by diet and physical activity — influences genes that determine who gets cancer. This is a view held by renowned cancer scientist Dr. Thomas Seyfried, who told me a ketogenic diet beats chemotherapy for almost all cancers.
Dr. D'Agostino says inflammation promotes cancer and almost every other degenerative illness, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer's. Ingestion of excess carbohydrates can be very pro-inflammatory, especially if it leads to insulin resistance.
"When we restrict carbs in our diet, we can prevent pro-inflammatory spikes in blood glucose and blood insulin," explained D'Agostino, who has a Ph.D. in physiology and neuroscience. "Suppression of blood glucose and insulin spikes can be very helpful when managing many chronic diseases."
Bone Cancer Patient Is Cancer-Free After Ketogenic Diet Therapy
Dr. Fred Hatfield, a former power-lifting champion and founder of the International Sports Sciences Association, has successfully beaten cancer with the ketogenic diet.
When Dr. Hatfield was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, he treated it with surgery and radiation, which is the common standard of care. Like other cancer patients, he got violently ill and weak from his treatment.
In 2010, when Dr. Hatfield was diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer, he contacted Dr. D'Agostino's laboratory to get more information on the metabolic therapies that were under investigation. Now, four years later, Dr. Hatfield remains in remission and leads a very active lifestyle. He credits the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet for his miraculous recovery.
"Not only is Dr. Hatfield's cancer gone, but he's in excellent health," said Dr. D'Agostino. "He works out every day and enjoys his life at 71.
"The ketogenic diet has a good track record for managing cancer and may be an effective adjuvant therapy in cancers where chemo has been shown to provide some benefit, including lymphomas, leukemia and testicular cancer."
LCHF Ketogenic Diet Helps Weight Loss, Epilepsy and Alzheimer's
A ketogenic diet has already proven effective at producing rapid weight loss, at treating epilepsy, and protecting brain health. Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, told me the ketogenic diet prevents — and in some instances reverses — Alzheimer's disease and ADHD.
"Carbs are devastating for the brain," said Dr. Perlmutter. "Even slight elevations in blood sugar have been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease."
And Dr. Jeff Volek, author of The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living, told me the ketogenic diet reverses type 2 diabetes, prevents heart disease, and accelerates weight loss without hunger. "There are very few people that a ketogenic diet could not help," said Dr. Volek.
Dr. D'Agostino said the therapeutic cancer-fighting effects of the ketogenic diet can be further enhanced with agents that elevate ketone levels, including ketone supplements, medium-chain triglycerides (MCT oil) and coconut oil.
Since 2007, D'Agostino has worked with the Office of Naval Research to assist the Navy SEALs by developing ketogenic diet strategies to protect them from the undersea environment.
D’Agostino’s laboratory has validated the development and testing of nutritional ketosis (ketone esters) that provides an encouraging mitigation strategy against the seizures experienced by Navy SEAL divers during rigorous underwater training exercises.
On top of its disease-fighting properties, Dr. D'Agostino says a ketogenic diet may be beneficial for many people, because restricting carbs makes weight management and reversal of elevated glucose levels easy, due in part to the appetite suppression effect.
Today, there are several ongoing studies exploring the ketogenic diet's efficacy at fighting cancer. D'Agostino is confident they will validate the ketogenic diet as an effective therapy to metabolically manage cancer.
The best part is, metabolic therapy can give cancer patients back some of the control they lost when they fell ill. And unlike chemo and surgery, it won't deplete your retirement account or make each day an unending nightmare of vomiting and cold sweats.
"I have no doubt that ongoing research and clinical trials will show that the ketogenic diet slows or suppresses tumor growth," said Dr. D'Agostino. "Nutrition is the foundation of health. I hope universities will recognize this and incorporate nutrition into the medical curriculum."
Read our exclusive interview with Dr. Thomas Seyfried here.