Friday, 13 February 2009

Cancer and a high-fat low-carb diet.

In yesterday's blog I mentioned cancer, and on further researching the subject today I discovered several trials of high-fat low-carb diets being used to treat cancer patients which provide very interesting reading.

In September 2007 Time Magazine published an article entitled Can a High-Fat Diet Beat Cancer? by Richard Friebe. It tells of a trial conducted by Dr. Melanie Schmidt and biologist Ulrike Kämmerer of the Wurzburg Hospital in Germany, based on the work of Otto Warburg, a German Nobel laureate.

More than eighty years ago, Otto Warburg observed that in fast-growing tumors appeared to grow and divide by feeding on blood sugars from carbohydrates and sugars in the body. He believed that by removing these sugars from the body the cancer would be starved. He also realised that the normal cells throughout the body were able to generate sufficient energy from ketones, which is the main source of energy in a high-fat diet.

The researchers in Wurzburg have only been allowed to recruit those patients who have already run out of all other options! All are known to have a high glucose metabolism. Four of the patients were already so ill that they died within the first week of the trial, but five who continued on the diet for three months either stabilised or improved. However, for two patients who stuck to the diet, it didn't work and they left the study.

The part of the story that stunned me is that some of the patients left the trial "because they were unable or unwilling to renounce soft drinks, chocolate and so on"! It doesn't say what happened to them, unfortunately.

This is not the first time a ketogenic diet has been reported to have help in the battle against cancer. Two children were treated with a ketogenic diet in Ohio in 1995.

There are also articles to be found on the protective values of diets rich in saturated fats in cancer patients.

Intake of macronutrients and risk of breast cancer. Italy, 1996
This case-controls study shows that unsaturated fatty acids protect against breast cancer, possibly because intake of these nutrients is closely correlated with a high intake of raw vegetables. The findings also suggest a possible risk in southern European populations, of reliance on a diet largely based on starch.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the Canadian anthropologist and explorer, published a book in 1960 entitled Cancer Disease of Civilization. In it he wrote:

"Stanislaw Tanchou .... gave the first formula for predicting cancer risk. It was based on grain consumption and was found to accurately calculate cancer rates in major European cities. The more grain consumed, the greater the rate of cancer."

Tanchou made the claim in 1843, to the Paris Medical Society. He also postulated that cancer would likewise never be found in hunter-gatherer populations. This began a search among the populations of hunter-gatherers known to missionary doctors and explorers. This search continued until WWII when the last wild humans were"civilized" in the Arctic and Australia. No cases of cancer were ever found within these populations, although after they adopted the diet
of civilization, it became common."
At least two studies are currently under way in Europe into the use of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet in the treatment of cancer. I'll be watching with interest for the results.

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