Alix Hayden is treating her brain cancer with the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet and has made headlines in her native Canada for detailing her cancer journey.
Hayden, a director of operations at biotech firm Phenomenome Discoveries in Saskatoon, was diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2012. She has been treating it with the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet, which researchers say starves cancer cells.
'I Will Starve My Brain Tumor to Death'
"Living in the Canadian prairies, following a high fat/low carb diet that I believe will one day starve my slow-growing brain tumor right to death," Alix wrote on her blog, Greymadder.net.
Hayden, who's in her mid-thirties, started her blog to chronicle her cancer recovery. "I do work in cancer research, so that was a little bit of an irony for me," she told NewsTalk650. "I've written about my journey with this diagnosis and things that I came to in terms of my health."
Alix said people are often surprised that she's managing her brain tumor through diet therapy alone — without chemotherapy. Hayden began following the ketogenic diet in February 2013.
"For me, it wasn't really about alternative therapies, it was coming back to what I already knew, which is that diet and lifestyle and your metabolism and your biochemistry really does influence your health," she said.
Alix said her low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet includes consuming heavy cream, avocados and bacon, and drastically limiting carb intake — especially from sugar — which cancer cells thrive on. Hayden's diet is 65% fats, 30% protein, and 5% carbs.
"I wanted, in a nutshell, was a diet high enough in fat and low enough in sugar that my body would be forced to adapt and use fat for energy," said Alix. "It is worth noting that I did not do this in cooperation with a dietitian or doctor."
Hayden said her brain tumor hasn't gotten smaller since she began the ketogenic diet, but it also hasn't gotten any bigger. She gets an MRI every six months and said she's holding off on chemotherapy and radiation for now, since her tumor has been categorized as slow-growing.
Alix has lost 13 pounds off her already-slender frame since adopting the ketogenic diet. Her body fat fell 5.3%, and her muscle mass increased by 1.7%. While weight loss was not her goal, Alix was shocked that she lost weight by eating more dietary fat.
"This was not a weight loss experiment," said Alix. "But I have been continually surprised that with this kind of diet, I was not gaining weight at all. In fact, I was getting leaner."
Cancer Scientists: Ketogenic Diet Starves Cancer
While Hayden's dietary approach to her cancer may sound unorthodox, researchers say the ketogenic diet can be extremely helpful in fighting cancer. In an exclusive interview, cancer scientist Dr. Dominic D'Agostino said his research during the past four years confirmed that a ketogenic diet starves cancer cells.
"We've found that diet therapy can be effective in prolonging survival in mice with aggressive metastatic cancer," said Dr. D'Agostino, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida College of Medicine.
These same anti-cancer properties have also been observed in human cancer patients and reported in published studies. According to Dr. D'Agostino, 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 starve cancer cells.
Similarly, Dr. Thomas Seyfried of Boston College told me a ketogenic diet beats chemotherapy for most cancers. Seyfried's decades of research indicates that cancer is a metabolic disease that can be treated with diet therapy.
The ketogenic diet has also been praised for its ability to produce rapid weight loss, reverse type 2 diabetes, manage epileptic seizures, and prevent dementia and heart disease.
Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter told me the ketogenic diet prevents — and in some instances reverses — Alzheimer's disease and ADHD. He detailed the research in his bestseller, Grain Brain.
Similarly, Dr. Jeff Volek, a professor at Ohio State University, told me the ketogenic diet promotes optimal health for diabetics, the obese, for elite endurance athletes, and the average sedentary individual. "There are very few people that a ketogenic diet could not help," said Dr. Volek, author of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living.
And obesity expert Dr. Eric Westman has seen thousands of morbidly obese patients at the Duke University Obesity Center lose dramatic amounts of weight on the ketogenic diet (without exercise) and reverse their type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.
Dr. Westman, co-author of Keto Clarity, is pleased that mainstream media is finally dispelling the myth that eating fat makes you fat and sick. To the contrary, he said: Eating fat makes you skinny and healthy.