Natural Therapies

Dr. Gonzalez dismantles the ketogenic diet for cancer

In early 2012 I discovered the ketogenic diet for cancer.
I’ve understood for many years that different diets work for different people, and I was intrigued by this as another possible dietary strategy to heal cancer, so naturally I shared information about it on this site, thinking it might be a viable option for some. At that time there were no other sites as large as mine talking about it.

In 2013, awareness of the keto diet exploded, mostly do to Dr. Mercola’s articles, interviews and endorsement of it. Since then, many others have jumped on the bandwagon. And at first glance, there is some very compelling science that presents the ketogenic diet as a method to starve cancer cells of their primary fuel, glucose, thus killing the cancer.

Despite the zealous promoters of it, some of whom I have great respect for, my opinion of the ketogenic diet for cancer has changed.

It started with several long phone conversations and email exchanges I had with my friend
Dr. Patrick Vickers of Northern Baja Healing Center. He was adamant that the ketogenic diet did not work in healing cancer long term. This coincided with the recurrence of cancer in someone I knew that was promoting the ketogenic diet as effective.

It appeared to have some positive short term results for some people (shrinking tumors), but I was beginning to have some doubts about it working long term. This persisted for many months and I could not shake it. So I finally made the decision to take down my very popular post and youtube video about it. To date, that is the only post I’ve ever taken down.

Then came the coup de grace from Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez.

Dr. Gonzalez and his colleague Dr. Linda Isaacs have had remarkable success treating cancer patients with a non-toxic nutritional protocol that incorporates Gerson principles along with the late Dr. William Donald Kelley’s protocol which includes high doses of pancreatic enzymes and individualized diets depending on body type and cancer type. I have huge respect for them, not because of their theories, because they are getting results, including reversing “incurable” stage four cancers.

Recently Dr. Gonzalez wrote an eight part article series for Natural Health 365 on the history and failure of the ketogenic diet for cancer. Dr. Gonzalez’s nutritional cancer treatment expertise is much deeper than ANYONE currently promoting the ketogenic diet for cancer, because unlike anyone else promoting it, he actually treats cancer patients with nutrition every day. And that sealed the deal for me.

There are thousands of people out there who have healed cancer naturally. I meet natural survivors constantly and even share their stories on this site. Most natural cancer healing protocols involve a radical change of diet and lifestyle that includes overdosing on nutrition with juicing, lots of raw plant food, little to no animal food, supplements, and herbal cleanses along with detox protocols like the liver/gallbladder flush, coffee enemas, etc. Those are all time-tested methods validated by a large body of long term survivors.

I know a lot of long-term natural survivors, but I don’t know any long-term survivors who have used a ketogenic diet to heal.

Like I said, there’s some really compelling science… but no long-term survivors.

And that’s my big hang up.

I don’t care how good the science sounds. Survivors trump science. And until we have a substantial list of long term survivors, I cannot in good conscience promote ketogenic diet as a viable option for healing cancer.

I am perfectly ok with being proven wrong, and if so, I will freely admit it, but it will be at least 10 years before we know if this really works for people, long-term.

Having said all that, if a protocol like the one I described above did not work, I would certainly be open to try to heal with a ketogenic diet over chemotherapy. It just wouldn’t be my first choice.

Here is a short video in which Dr. Gonzalez explains why he thinks a ketogenic diet doesn’t work for cancer. Just to recap, Dr. Gonzalez uses nutrition to heal cancer, putting his patients on a variety of diets based on their cancer and other factors. Simply put, if the ketogenic diet worked, this is a doctor who would be using it.

 

If you really want to dig in, Dr. Gonzalez masterfully dismantles the ketogenic diet for cancer in the lengthy article below. This is not a scientific rebuttal, quibbling ad infinitum over theories about Warburg, glycosis, cell respiration, and ATP, rather it is a thoughtful, well-reasoned reflection from a doctor in the trenches of nutritional cancer treatment for nearly three decades. His real world experience, insider knowledge, historical perspective and common sense put him head and shoulders above the ivory tower theorizers.

Highly recommended for anyone who wants perspective on the ketogenic diet vs. high carb therapies that involve juicing, etc.

Enter Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez.

In this initial article, I’d like to begin by making the point that the world of cancer research and cancer medicine is littered with the discarded theories and rejected therapies thought at one time to be the next promising miracle, the final answer to this perplexing and deadly disease. In my own professional lifetime, I have witnessed a number of cancer miracles come and go, sometimes in quite dizzying succession and at times with extraordinarily dazzling hysteria.

I remember one of the first, from 1980 when I was a first year medical student at Cornell; in this case, it was, according to the press and the journals, the magic of interferon, an immune stimulant destined to bring cancer to its knees. Not too long afterward, interferon would turn out to be a bust, with its promise and fame rising and falling in roller coaster-like style.

I lived through a far more extraordinary situation just five years later. I had graduated medical school by that point and was living in Florida, finishing my immunology fellowship under Robert A. Good, MD, PhD, the famed “father of modern immunology” as he had been called.

It was late 1985 when the media broke the story about the next cancer miracle. I was sitting in my apartment overlooking beautiful Tampa Bay, when I read the initial front-page newspaper reports. Dr. Steven Rosenberg, already well-known as Ronald Reagan’s surgeon (the President had a malignant polyp), and a highly regarded basic science researcher running a section at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, had just revealed to the world – at a press conference, as I remember – his preliminary pilot study results with a new immune modulator, interleukin-2, that would provoke an extraordinary media frenzy.

The initial pronouncements, released with such glowing enthusiasm, indicated that finally, yes finally, after so many disappointments we might actually be looking at a real, universal cancer cure. In both laboratory and preliminary human trials, interleukin-2 – like interferon before it, a natural product secreted by lymphocytes that stimulates other cancer-fighting immune cells into action – had performed almost magically against even the most aggressive of cancers, such as metastatic melanoma and metastatic kidney cancer.

News of Dr. Rosenberg’s “miracle” was everywhere, in the print media, on the local and national news, and in an extended Newsweek story appearing December 16, 1985, with white-coated Dr. Rosenberg on the cover peering intently at the world. The article, titled “Search for A Cure” in large bold print went on for six pages, accompanied by photos of Dr. Rosenberg, one with a patient, another as the serious scientist in the lab. Elaborate, colorful artwork illustrated the narrative, showing the intricate mechanisms of the immune system, and pinpointing interleukin-2’s ability, under the guiding hand of Dr. Rosenberg, to fight malignant disease.

A separate subsection headlined “The Rise of a Superstar, From Reagan’s surgery to the frontiers of research” chronicled the compelling life story of Dr. Rosenberg. You couldn’t buy better publicity than this.

At the end of this piece, the writers did include a brief section titled “Interferon: A Cautionary Tale,“ reminding readers of the hoopla five years earlier over that other immune modulator, which too had been all the rage in the cancer research world. The essay, following the main laudatory articles, began:

To some ears, last week’s exultation over interleukin-2 has a familiar but discordant ring. Something similar happened about five years ago with a substance called interferon, the “magic bullet” of cancer research, featured on magazine covers and in articles with titles like “To Save Her Life – And Yours.” … But by 1984 the magic bullet had misfired; now the articles were called “The Myth of Interferon.”

Over the years, I had become particularly familiar with the interferon story since my boss, Dr. Good, had done much of the original research linking it to a possible anti-cancer effect.

By that point, I knew Dr. Good quite well: during my second year of medical school, Dr. Good, at the time a professor at Cornell and Director of the Sloan-Kettering Institute, had begun guiding my fledgling research career. In 1982, during my third year of medical school, to my dismay the powers that be at Sloan pushed him out rather unceremoniously.

Subsequently, he spent some time at the University of Oklahoma, where he was hired to set up a cancer research division, before moving to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, where again he established a cancer research-bone marrow transplant unit.

When the news of interleukin-2 first hit the press, I discussed this new “miracle” with Dr. Good, who had grown quite cautious after years of experience and having witnessed many similar announcements followed by the inevitable letdown in the research community.

“Look at the data, always look at the data,” he said, “not the media reports.” I followed his advice, tracked down and studied the actual clinical data, which I found surprisingly unimpressive. As I recall, in the first uncontrolled trial, of more than 100 patients entered only three seemed to have experienced any significant or lasting response.

In subsequent months, reports of enormous toxicity, even patient deaths began to filter through the research community, serving to temper the initial hysteria. And it wasn’t cheap, as miracles go – the very toxic drug was so potentially dangerous it had to be administered in a hospital setting under very close supervision, with costs running in excess of $100,000 for a several-week course of treatment.

Despite the initial warning signs, the media continued its relentless promotion of interleukin-2 for a number of years. In 1992, perhaps due to political pressure more than scientific evidence, the FDA approved the drug for use against cancer, despite the lack of comprehensive controlled trials. Then in the late 1998 a clinical study – completed some 13 years after the initial reporting – showed that interleukin-2, at least with advanced kidney cancer, worked no better than placebo.

It’s still being used, though increasingly rarely, and no one I know talks about it with much enthusiasm.

By the 1990s, just as practicing oncologist were giving up on interleukin-2, bone marrow transplant (BMT) as a solution to poor prognosis or metastatic breast cancer started grabbing the headlines, touted as a cure for this most invidious of diseases striking so many women in the prime of life. Despite the lack of any compelling evidence it worked for this indication, bone marrow transplant was being pushed as a solution to deadly forms of breast malignancy. However, initially insurance companies refused to pay for this unproven and very expensive treatment, which could cost in those days up to $500,000 or more.

Nonetheless, enthusiastic oncologists joined with the media, portraying insurance companies as heartless, greedy bullies depriving women with breast cancer of a curative treatment. Not too long after, the trial lawyers got involved, orchestrating a series of lawsuits against various insurance companies on behalf of women wanting a BMT. In a particularly notable and telling case, Fox vs. HealthNet, the jury awarded the plaintiff, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer whose insurance carrier refused to cover the procedure, $89 million, including $77 million in punitive damages.

Under such threat, the insurance industry relented, finding it cheaper to pay the $100,000 or $200,000 or $500,000 per procedure then risk such catastrophic financial harm.

After some 40,000 women underwent the procedure – at a time when 10-30% of patients died from the treatment itself – it was eventually proven to be worthless. The one glowing positive study from 1995, the infamous South African study of Dr. Bezwoda, turned out on closer examination to be a complete fraud, with the creative researcher simply making up the data. The wonderful and frightening book False Hope describes the bone marrow transplant-breast cancer fiasco in great detail, for those with an interest.

As these battles waged in the early 1990s, I had long left Dr. Good’s group, having returned to New York and private practice. Nonetheless, this story had a personal ring to it, as had the interferon story, since Dr. Good had completed the first bone marrow transplant in history, in 1969, and long hoped this technology would be, yes, an answer to cancer.

Under his direction, during my fellowship years I learned how to do this very tricky and often deadly procedure.

But no fear, there’s always a new miracle around the corner, and in 1998 the newspaper reporters and TV newscasters, having effortlessly drifted away from interferon and interleukin-2 and the bone marrow transplant craze, were all in a tizzy over the newest “final” solution to cancer, anti-angiogenesis, based on the pioneering work of the late Dr. Judah Folkman of Harvard. Dr. Folkman had spent decades studying the process of angiogenesis in cancer tissues, the formation of new blood vessels that allow tumors to grow quickly and invade through normal tissues and organs with deadly effect.

Without a rich blood supply, cancerous tumors cannot grow beyond a cubic centimeter.

Dr. Folkman had developed two drugs, angiostatin and endostatin, that in animal experiments reversed tumor growth by blocking new blood vessel formation, essentially starving out the cancer cells. In a November 1998, presentation of his work at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, Dr. Folkman announced to the world that at least in mice, “we have not seen a tumor we cannot regress.”

Though Dr. Folkman’s research was all based on laboratory experiments and animal studies, the powerful NCI publicity machine took up the cause, with the smell of “miracle” again in the air, despite the lack of any evidence that Folkman’s anti-angiogenesis drugs worked against human cancer. Nonetheless, with the NCI and NIH on board, the media, large and small, local and national, seemed transported into a state of frenzy.

I recall so well, this time sitting in my mid-Manhattan office, reading that famous May 3, 1998 front page lead New York Times article (in the upper left of the page reserved for wars, revolutions, and, yes, miracles) by reporter Gina Kolata, announcing Folkman’s preliminary findings to the world, extolling anti-angiogenesis in a tone that one more skeptical writer, Jack Breibart, described as “breathless.”

Kolata quoted no less an authority than Dr. James Watson, the Nobel Laureate in 1962 for his discovery, with his colleague Frances Crick, of the structure of DNA, the basic genetic material. “Judah is going to cure cancer in two years,” Watson told Kolata. You couldn’t ask for a better source, making a more definitive claim.

Kolata’s unrestrained reporting continued: “Dr. Watson said Dr. Folkman would be remembered along with scientists like Charles Darwin as someone who permanently altered civilization.”

The writer also quoted an enthusiastic Richard Klausner, MD, at the time Director of the National Cancer Institute, who assured the world, “I am putting nothing on higher priority that getting this into clinical trials.”

The glowing TV stories followed, including a memorable prime time, one-hour special about the subject on ABC hosted by the late Peter Jennings. The other networks, in quick succession, picked up the cause. However, not too long after, word broke that Times’ reporter Kolata had been, through her agent, hawking to publishers an idea for a book about anti-angiogenesis and cancer.

Her agent, according to reports at the time, began circulating a book proposal the day after the Times story ran, asking for a $2 million dollar advance! The whole episode raised some eyebrows over a reporter seeking to benefit personally from a subject she was promoting in the news section of the Times. After a fair amount of criticism, Kolata withdrew her book proposal.

As Dr. Klausner promised, the National Cancer Institute, probably swept up in the national and international explosion of hope and enthusiasm, “fast tracked” a preliminary study of endostatin in human patients, intending to enroll, as I recall, 70 subjects very quickly.

But what surprised me – and what began to concern others I knew in the medical community – was some time later the deafening silence about the trial’s outcome, and what seemed to be a blackout about the actual data. Eventually, the study results were published indicating that 42 subjects had been ultimately recruited for the trial, not the planned 70, and not a single one of these had responded to the drug.

Ironically Jennings himself, who had promoted the therapy with unabashed enthusiasm, would die of lung cancer, only months after his diagnosis in 2005. Folkman too, has passed on, never to realize his hope of an anti-angiogenesis, cancer-free world.

Nevertheless, anti-angiogenesis as the answer to cancer remains a big driving force in “biotech” companies, who have developed a whole slew of angiostatin and endostatin offspring, including the drug Avastin, costing up to $10,000 a month, though it doesn’t work particularly well. The clinical studies aren’t impressive, usually reporting several months of improved survival in patients diagnosed with a variety of advanced cancers.

In a further ironic turn, in December 2010, after approving the drug for treatment of women diagnosed with breast cancer, the FDA rescinded its blessing of Avastin for this indication when clinical trials failed to show any significant benefit.

The anti-angiogenesis love affair not only affected conventional researchers and oncologists, but infiltrated deeply into the “alternative” cancer world. During the late 1990s, I read numerous articles lauding the anti-angiogenic effect of various herbs. Some ten years ago or more, a number of alternative physicians began promoting artemesinin, an herb from Africa long used as a treatment for malaria, as a “natural” anti-angiogenesis supplement.

But ten years after the initial burst of enthusiasm, few of my colleagues even mention it.

And so it goes. We as a culture, as a nation, as a world, are forever looking for miracles from our scientific and medical gurus, miracles that might finally bring cancer to its knees. And there will forever be miracles ripe for the picking.

2

In 2012, Dr. Thomas Seyfried, a PhD basic science researcher, published the book, Cancer as a Metabolic Disease, announcing to the world that a high-fat, no carbohydrate ketogenic diet represents the solution to cancer prevention as well as to cancer treatment. His monograph has been greeted with much acclaim, though not yet at the level reached at the height of the interleukin-2 hysteria in 1985.

Dr. Seyfried, whom I do not personally know, is hardly an “alternative” medical scientist, since judging by his credentials listed on the back cover of the book his pedigree seems conventionally academic:

THOMAS N. SEYFRIED, PHD, has taught and conducted research in the fields of neurogenetics, neurochemistry, and cancer for more than twenty-five years at Yale University and Boston College. He has published more than 150 scientific articles and book chapters …

A closer look at Dr. Thomas Seyfried and his work

Certainly Dr. Seyfried has put together a most impressive achievement, chronicling in great detail his belief that cancer does not develop from genetic alterations – as is generally believed – but as a result of changes in fundamental cell physiology, specifically changes in energy production, that in turn lead to the cancer phenotype. In essence, the genes remain intact, but metabolism goes awry.

The book summarizes, then enlarges upon, the concepts of Otto Warburg, MD, the great German scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1931 for his work on cellular oxidation and energy production. No scientist has ever been nominated more frequently for the cherished Prize than Dr. Warburg, but he lost his chance for a second win, according to some sources, in 1944 after Hitler ordered that no German scientist could accept the award.

Who is Dr. Otto Warburg?

To sum up decades of Warburg briefly, mammalian cells create and store usable energy in the form of the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecule. Production of ATP is a complex affair involving three distinct and sequential series of cellular reactions that begin with the breakdown of the six-carbon sugar glucose. The first of these processes, glycolysis, does not require oxygen and occurs in the cytoplasm; the second, the citric acid cycle, occurs within the mitochondria, the oval shaped organelles dispersed within the cytoplasm, and requires oxygen; and the third, and most productive in terms of ATP generation, electron transport, proceeds in the membranes of mitochondria and also needs oxygen.

In normal mammalian cells, glycolysis represents the starting point of energy synthesis. Its end product, pyruvic acid, is in turn shunted first into the citric acid cycle, then ultimately into the electron transport chain. Along the way, a complex series of step-wise reactions releases multiple energy-rich ATP molecules.

Based on his years studying cellular metabolism, Dr. Warburg proposed that cancer cells, unlike normal cells, rely exclusively on anaerobic glycolysis for energy. Such cells do fine in the absence of oxygen, since the metabolic machinery of glycolysis doesn’t require it.

Warburg claimed that in these abnormal cells glycolysis actually uncouples from the citric acid cycle and electron transport, leaving the cells dependent solely on this rather inefficient mechanism for survival. Bacteria also synthesize their ATP energy exclusively from glycolysis, in the process we know as fermentation.

This uncoupling of glycolysis from the citric acid cycle and electron transport, and the supposed fundamental dependency of cancer cells on anaerobic metabolism, has been studied extensively since Warburg’s day, with many scientists around the world claiming to confirm, then adding to, Warburg’s hypothesis. As Dr. Seyfried correctly points out, in more recent times, cancer researchers have begun drifting away from the study of disordered cellular physiology, enamored as they are of genetic abnormality as the primary and only driving force in cancer formation and growth.

Warburg’s ideas about faulty metabolism seem to have been overshadowed by the elegance of, and fascination for, the “genetic cause of cancer.”

I agree Dr. Seyfried has done us all a great service by redefining, re-emphasizing and refining Dr. Warburg’s remarkable research from 80 years ago. He makes the case, using the contemporary basic science data, to support Warburg’s belief that cancer cells depend solely on glycolysis for survival, with his claim regarding the uncoupling of this sugar-fueled, oxygen-independent process from the citric acid cycle and the electron transport chain. But he goes a major step further, stating as fact that since cancer cells depend on anaerobic glucose metabolism for energy, they can be stopped in their tracks by depriving them of blood glucose.

Our normal healthy cells, be they situated in the brain or the skin of our feet, do prefer glucose as their primary energy source, obtained from the sugar circulating in the blood. That “blood sugar” comes from a variety of sources, including dietary carbohydrates occurring in fruits, starchy vegetables like potatoes, and grains. The complex carbohydrates in such foods are broken down into glucose during the digestive process, catalyzed by a variety of carb-specific enzymes like amylase.

We also maintain a certain amount of stored sugar as glycogen, found in the liver and muscle and formed when glucose molecules link up to one another in complex chains. In times of need and if deprived of dietary carbohydrates, our liver and muscle cells can break down glycogen into glucose for release into the bloodstream. Our liver cells can also, when necessary, convert certain amino acids such as alanine into glucose.

However, our glycogen supplies in the liver and muscle are quite limited, providing only an 8-12 hour emergency supply. So during a fast, or starvation, or on a diet providing no carbohydrates in any form, we quickly run out of glycogen. In this situation, through a variety of neural and hormonal signaling, our fat cells, or adipocytes, begin releasing free fatty acids into the blood stream. These fatty acids can in turn be used by our cells in the alternate ATP producing process of beta oxidation.

The end result of this series of reactions, acetyl coenzyme A, can then be shunted into the citric acid cycle and the electron transport chain, to produce maximum amounts of energy-rich ATP.

Though most of our cells can utilize fatty acids of all stripes via beta oxidation to create ATP energy, our central nervous system is at somewhat of a disadvantage. In fact, long chain fatty acids with 14 or more carbons, which can yield the most ATP from beta oxidation, do not cross the blood-brain barrier. However, in a state of prolonged dietary carbohydrate depletion, the liver begins converting acetyl coenzyme A into various ketone bodies, such as acetoacetate and beta hydroxy butyric acid, which easily penetrate into the brain and which can, like acetyl coenzyme A, be shunted into the citric acid cycle and then the electron transport chain, providing the brain with ATP.

On a low carb or no carb diet, our billions of cells in all our tissues and organs switch their energy mechanics from a process driven by glucose to one propelled by fatty acids and ketone bodies. The term “ketosis” simply means the state in which, in the absence of sufficient glucose, our liver synthesizes ketones from acetyl coenzyme A.

However, even on a no carb, all meat, high-fat diet, we will still be consuming some glucose in the form of glycogen stored in muscle and organ meats, and our livers will continue to convert some dietary amino acids into glucose, so blood sugar levels never hit zero on such a diet. But in such cases, the amounts produced will be minimal.

Though our normal cells do just fine in the absence of carbohydrates, cancer cells, Dr. Seyfried claims, do not. These cells, he says, can never use fatty acids or ketone bodies for any significant energy production, since the citric acid cycle and electron transport in them remain basically inactive. So, he proposes, as the culmination of his exegesis, that on a high fat, moderate protein, no carb diet, a cancer patient will deprive his or her deadly abnormal cells of their only useful source of energy, blood glucose, leading to apoptosis, or cell death.

It’s that simple. No dietary sugar, no cancer.

The science is impressive, the conclusion, to many it seems, extraordinarily promising. But, is this ketogenic diet really a “new” idea or simply an old one, repackaged for the 21st century? And, can history teach us anything about its efficacy against cancer, or any other disease?

 3

During the first half of the 20th century, physicians and researchers studying the traditional Eskimo (Inuit) culture were amazed by the health of these people subsisting on a very peculiar – at least to the Western academic mind – high fat ketogenic diet. The famed Arctic explorer Stefansson first documented the traditional Eskimo diet, which was later studied in some detail in the early 1930s by a research team from McGill University in Montreal.

To the surprise of these investigators – at the time no Western scientist believed any human could survive on nothing but meat – this Eskimo diet consisted of virtually 100% animal products, 80% in the form of fat, with much of it saturated, 20% protein, but essentially no carbohydrates. From cradle to grave these traditional Eskimos lived in a state of ketosis.

In retrospect, it makes sense that in the Arctic the Eskimos, in order to survive, would have adjusted to their high fat, moderate protein, no carb diet. With its brief summer and lacking soils suitable for crops, the region provides insufficient plant foods suitable for human consumption but does offer an abundance of fatty animal food both on land and in the sea. If the Eskimos hadn’t adapted to such food, living as they did in such a difficult, extreme part of the world, they simply would have died off.

Interestingly, as Stefansson pointed out, the Eskimos he studied and lived with for ten years knew that their exclusive animal food diet must be high fat, with moderately low protein. They warned a diet lacking sufficient fat (or as a corollary in Western scientific terms, high protein), would lead to sickness and eventually death.

As Stefansson and later scientists learned, the Eskimos living on their high fat, ketogenic diet seemed free from the typical degenerative diseases including cancer and heart disease, already becoming rampant in the Western world during the early decades of the 20th century. In 1960, the elderly Stefansson – was quite a celebrity by that time for his adventures to far away places – wrote a book entitled Cancer: Disease of Civilization?, in which he made the case that the typical Eskimo diet offered complete protection from this frightening malady.

In a number of his best-selling books, Stefansson argued strongly that we should all be living like Eskimos, indulging in high fat, moderate protein, no carb diets – that is, if we wanted superb, enduring good health.

Blake Donaldson, MD, who ran a general practice for decades on Long Island, New York, began prescribing a ketogenic diet in the 1920s. Donaldson, who was quite familiar with Stefansson’s reports on the Eskimo diet, began recommending an all-meat, high-fat regimen for his patients diagnosed with a variety of complaints such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, though he doesn’t appear to have treated cancer specifically. In his 1961 book, Strong Medicine, Dr. Donaldson summarized his findings and his many years of experience recommending a high fat diet.

More recently, the famed New York diet doctor, Robert Atkins, MD, popularized the ketogenic diet, not for cancer, but as the ultimate weight loss plan with his books over the decades selling in the tens of millions of copies. The original version of the Diet Revolution published in 1972 sold at one point more than 100,000 hard copies a week, in those days the fastest selling book in the history of United States publishing.

As the years passed, Dr. Atkins, a cardiologist by training, began to see in the ketogenic diet the answer to many of the problems of Western civilization beyond obesity, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension – and yes, even cancer.

The traditional Atkins’ Diet was certainly high fat, in the range of 70% or more, nearly all from animal sources, and with minimal dietary carbs, less than 10%. Dr. Atkins, famed for his all-encompassing emphasis on ketosis during his early years as a diet doctor, insisted his patients routinely check the levels of ketone bodies in their urine several times a day, using special “ketone strips.”

In his books and in his office working with his own patients, Dr. Atkins warned that to reap the benefits of his diet, one must reach and stay in a state of ketosis, much like the traditional Eskimos. Even a slight deviation from the diet, some ill-advised cheating with a cookie or candy, could stop ketosis in its tracks, and with it, the value of the diet.

I knew Bob quite well, and considered him a friend. We first met when I interviewed him for a nutrition story during my journalism days, and later on while I was a medical student, we kept in close contact. During my freshman year at Cornell Medical School – from which Bob had received his own medical degree – I arranged for him to speak as part of a lecture series I had set up on alternative approaches to disease.

After I finished my conventional immunology training under Dr. Good, in 1987 Bob graciously offered me a job in his clinic, not to work with patients seeking dietary or general nutritional advice, but to help supervise a cancer unit he was then in the process of establishing. Though I was grateful for the proposal, I turned him down, determined to set up my own practice.

Bob had achieved great success as a diet doctor, with an estimated wealth at the time of his death in 2003 in the range of $350 million. He was also a very driven and very smart physician, who clearly saw in cancer, and not in obesity, the ultimate challenge in medicine.

Bob, who knew Stefansson’s work well, told me during more than one dinner together in the late 1980s that the ketogenic diet might represent the ultimate solution to cancer. He thought, as Donaldson and Stefansson had claimed before him, that all humans should be following a ketogenic diet to achieve ultimate ideal health. But were they right? Or was there another, perhaps more accurate way, to look at the human dietary condition?

 4

Nathan Pritikin believed, and fanatically so, that all humans were genetically and metabolically programmed to follow a high carb, very low fat, exclusively plant-based diet, which if applied diligently would protect us from all the major degenerative disease killers, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension – and perhaps, even cancer.

The traditional Pritikin diet was literally a mirror image of the Atkins’ Diet, with about 70-75% of all calories derived from carbohydrates, 15-20% from protein, all from plant sources, and 8% or less from fat, again all plant-derived.

After Pritikin’s death in 1985, Dr. Dean Ornish of San Francisco would pick up the Pritikin mantle, eventually testing a similar diet in patients diagnosed with heart disease as well as in patients with prostate cancer.

The nutritional world then, as it is today, was surely confusing, with various scientists, physicians, and lay authors promoting one diet or another, often – as in the case of Atkins and Pritikin – offering completely contradictory dietary recommendations. Fortunately, when in 1987 Dr. Atkins offered me a job, I had already found what I thought represented a solution to the dilemma of dueling dietary dogma.

By the time I began medical school in 1979 I had read the pioneering work of Weston A. Price, DDS, the American dentist and researcher. Beginning in the late 1920s, Dr. Price, accompanied by his wife, spent seven years traveling the world evaluating isolated groups of people living and eating according to long-standing tradition. Today such a study would be impossible, since just about everyone everywhere has adopted the “Western” way of living and eating, down to jeans and junk food.

But in Dr. Price’s day, many groups living in many different locations still lived according to tradition largely untouched by modern Western influence. Price’s travels took him from the Eskimos of the Arctic, to the descendents of the Incas living in the high Andes, to the Masai on the plains of Kenya, to isolated Swiss herders in the Alpine mountain valleys, to Polynesians living on pristine tropical islands.

The variety of diets around the world

Each of these groups Dr. Price studied seemed well adapted to the available food supply. The Eskimos, as Stefansson earlier had reported and as Price confirmed, thrived on their high fat, no carb, animal-based diet. The Inca descendents, on the other hand, had done quite well consuming grains like quinoa, along with tubers, fruits, and some animal protein and dairy. The Masai flourished on a rather extreme diet consisting, for an adult warrior, of a gallon of raw milk a day with some blood and occasional meat, but no fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, or grains.

The Swiss herders did just fine living on raw pastured cow milk and cheese accompanied by a nutrient-dense, whole grain bread. The Polynesian diet centered around coconut in all its incarnations, the milk, meat, and cream, creatively used in a variety of ways, along with fish, some wild animal meat, and fruits. These diets could not be more different; an Eskimo never drank milk or ate a coconut, the Inca descendents never saw a coconut or whale blubber, a Masai never ate coconut or grains, the Polynesians never consumed grains, never drank milk, and never ate cheese.

However different these diets might be, each of these groups, and the many other traditional peoples Price studied, enjoyed excellent enduring health, free from the diseases of civilization – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. In his extraordinary and very detailed 1945 book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Price documented his thesis that we humans over the millennium adapted to and thrived on not one, as the experts usually claim, but a variety of different diets.

There were some commonalities among the diets, of course; all these traditional people ate some animal products, and all consumed a fair amount of fat, whether from plant or animal sources. All the food was, of course, locally grown, locally harvested, or locally hunted, since these isolated groups lacked access to the industrialized food of modern “civilization.”

The food had to be local. And all these groups ate some food in its raw, uncooked form, which they believed possessed special nutritional value.

Having first read Dr. Price’s book during my journalism days, I knew that according to his exhaustive work, humans were a varied species, in the past living in and adapting to all ecological niches excepting the Antarctic, offering a variety of food sources. To me, his work offered a solution to the conflicting dietary advice even then being offered to the world. It didn’t make sense as Nathan Pritikin insisted or as Bob Atkins argued, that all humans should follow one specific type of diet: It just didn’t seem reasonable, to me at least.

I would receive further support for my thinking during the summer of 1981, after completing my second year of medical school. That July, through one of my journalism contacts from my previous life, I had the opportunity to meet the controversial alternative cancer practitioner, the dentist Dr. William Donald Kelley. Over a 20 year period beginning in the early 1960s, Kelley had developed a very intensive nutritional approach to cancer that came under harsh public scrutiny and media attention when he agreed to treat Steve McQueen.

Steve McQueen was diagnosed with advanced mesothelioma, a particularly deadly form of cancer associated with asbestos exposure, sought out Kelley after the conventional approaches, radiation and immunotherapy, failed to halt the progression of his disease. Though he seemed to rally initially, McQueen, according to accounts of those involved with his care, was not particularly compliant, and appeared at the time he first consulted Kelley too sick for any therapy to work. He would eventually die at a Mexican clinic under the condemning gaze of the media for his choice of an alternative method.

My writer friend had been in touch with Dr. Kelley, thinking that with all the attention around him he might make a good subject for a successful book. But she wanted me to meet in person with Kelley, who happened to be in New York to discuss her book project. Frankly, as she explained to me, she needed my take on the man, whom she really couldn’t decipher – was he truly onto something useful and extraordinary with his odd therapy, or was he simply a huckster, taking advantage of vulnerable cancer patients, as the media had been insisting.

Though initially reluctant, I agreed to meet with Kelley, who turned out to be far different from what I expected. I found him to be very shy, very thoughtful, and clearly very smart. And, I could see that he was passionately devoted to his nutritional approach to cancer.

During that first meeting, Kelley described in some detail the tenets of his therapy. In summary, it involved three basic components: individualized diet, individualized supplement programs with large doses of pancreatic enzymes Kelley believed had an anti-cancer effect, and detoxification routines such as the coffee enemas. He fervently believed that each patient required a protocol designed for his or her particular metabolic, physiologic, and biochemical needs, and that one diet would never be suitable for all.

As I was to learn, the diets Dr. Kelley prescribed ranged from largely plant-based high-carb to an Atkins-like diet, with patients prescribed fatty meat several times daily. In general Kelley believed patients diagnosed with the typical solid tumors – cancers of the breast, lung, stomach, pancreas, colon, liver, uterus, ovary, prostate – did best adhering to a plant-based, high carb type diet, low in animal protein and animal fat.

Patients diagnosed with the immune based “blood cancers” like leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, as well as the sarcomas, a type of connective tissue malignancy, required a lower carb, high animal fat, moderate animal protein diet. Other patients, usually with problems other than cancer, thrived on a more “balanced” diet, incorporating a variety of plant and animal foods.

But all his patients ate some carbs in the form of fruit and carrot juice, the amounts allowed varying according to the underlying metabolic makeup. All this resonated with me, having studied the work of Weston Price so intently.

After my original lengthy conversation with Dr. Kelley, my research mentor Dr. Good suggested that during my summer break I begin an informal review of Kelley’s patient charts located in his Dallas office. From my first day in Dallas, I found among Kelley’s records patient after patient with appropriately diagnosed poor prognosis or what would be considered terminal disease such as metastatic pancreatic and metastatic breast cancer, who had done well under his care for many years, often with documented regression of his disease.

These preliminary findings spurred Dr. Good to encourage a more thorough investigation of Kelley’s methods and results. As the project grew in scope, I continued my “Kelley Study” in my spare time during the last two years of medical school, and ultimately brought it to completion while pursuing my immunology fellowship training under Dr. Good at All Childrens’ Hospital in St. Petersburg.

For the study I reviewed thousands of Kelley’s charts, interviewed over a thousand of his patients, and evaluated 455 of them in some detail. I eventually put my information into monograph form under Dr. Good’s direction, including 50 lengthy case reports of patients with 26 different types of appropriately diagnosed, poor-prognosis cancer who had responded to Kelley’s nutritional regimen.

One of these patients, a woman from Appleton, Wisconsin, had been diagnosed in the summer of 1982 with stage IV pancreatic adenocarcinoma, the most aggressive form of this most aggressive disease. A liver biopsy during exploratory surgery confirmed the diagnosis of metastatic cancer, which the Mayo Clinic would later confirm. When the Mayo oncologist on the case said there was nothing that could be done, the patient being looking into alternative approaches, learned about Kelley’s work, and began his therapy.

Thirty-one years later, she is alive and well, having seen her children – and now her grandchildren – graduate college. To put this case in perspective, I know of no patient in the history of medicine with stage IV pancreatic cancer and biopsy proven liver metastases who has lived this long.

Another memorable patient written up for the book had been diagnosed with what was thought to be localized endometrial cancer in 1969. After a course of radiation to shrink her large tumor, she underwent hysterectomy, and was told they “got it all.” Over the next few years, however, her health began to deteriorate: she experienced persistent fatigue, malaise, pelvic pain, and weight loss.

Though she returned to her primary care physician repeatedly, he dismissed her complaints as “nerves,” suggesting only a tranquilizer. Eventually, in 1975 she developed a palpable mass the size of a grapefruit in her pelvis, thought by her doctors – finally taking her seriously – to be an indication of obvious recurrent disease. A chest x-ray at the time revealed multiple nodules in both lungs, consistent with widely metastatic cancer.

Though told her situation was dire and her cancer incurable, she underwent surgery to remove the large pelvic tumor, to avoid an impending intestinal obstruction. Shortly afterwards she began a synthetic progesterone used at the time as a treatment for metastatic uterine cancer.

Her doctors admitted the drug would not be curative, but hopefully might extend her life a few months. However, she stopped the medication after a few weeks because of serious side effects, and with no other conventional options in sight she began looking into alternative approaches.

She learned about Kelley’s work, began the program, regained her health, and avoided all conventional doctors for many years. In 1984, nine years after coming under Kelley’s care, she returned to her primary care physician who was quite perplexed she was still alive after all this time. A chest x-ray showed total resolution of her once widespread lung metastases.

This patient eventually lived until 2009 when she died at age 95, having survived 34 years from her diagnosis of recurrent metastatic uterine cancer.

Although Kelley did prescribe a variety of diets for his cancer patients, these two exemplary patients followed a plant-based eating plan, high in carbohydrates with a minimum each day of four glasses of carrot juice, dense in nutrients but also dense in natural sugar. Each of these diets allowed considerable fruit and whole grain products, foods again loaded with carbs. According to Seyfried’s hypothesis, both should have died quick miserable deaths.

At the time I finished my monograph in 1986, I hoped that with its publication, fair-minded researchers might begin taking Dr. Kelley and his nutritional therapy seriously. As I was to learn, I completely and rather naively misjudged the animus of the scientific community toward unconventional cancer treatment approaches that didn’t fit the “accepted” model. Even with Dr. Good’s support, after two years of trying I could not get the book published, either in its entirety, or in the form of individual case reports appropriate for the conventional medical journals.

Editors responded with disbelief, claiming the results couldn’t be real since a non-toxic nutritional therapy could never be useful against advanced cancer. I found the logic, “it couldn’t be true because it couldn’t be true” perplexing, for editors of scientific journals. In any event, the book would finally be published, in a rewritten and updated form, in 2010.

Discouraged by our failure to get the results of my five-year effort into the world, in 1987 Kelley closed down his practice and more or less went off the deep end, disappearing from sight for a number of years. After we parted in 1987, he and I would never speak again.

In 2005, he would eventually die with his dream of academic acceptance unrealized. But my colleague Dr. Linda Isaacs and I have worked diligently over the past 26 years, keeping the Kelley idea alive, that different people may require completely different diets. In the next installment, I will address my own experience treating patients diagnosed with advanced cancer with a Kelley based approach. Our therapy involves, oftentimes, diets high in carbohydrates, which proponents of the ketogenic diet would predict should fuel, not stop, cancer.

5

After Kelly closed down his practice, in late 1987 I returned to New York and began treating patients with advanced cancer, using a Kelley-based enzyme approach, with immediate good results. One of the first patients who consulted me had been diagnosed two years earlier, after a series of mishaps, with inflammatory breast cancer, the most aggressive form of the disease.

This patient had a very unfortunate story: by the time of her original diagnosis in 1985, her breast tumor was too large to allow for surgery, so her doctors recommended a course of radiation to the chest, hoping to shrink the tumor and allow for mastectomy.

She proceeded with the planned radiation, but at surgery the tumor was still quite large at 8 cm, with 18 of 18 lymph nodes involved with cancer.

Her doctors informed her that her disease would inevitably prove fatal, but suggested aggressive chemotherapy to hold off the cancer as long as possible. She again followed her doctor’s advice, beginning multi-agent chemo.

In the fall of 1987, two years into treatment, she developed evidence of new metastatic disease in the bone. At that point, she began looking into alternative approaches, learned about our work from a social worker she knew, and came under my care only a couple of months after I had begun in private practice.

To summarize her nearly 26 years of treatment with me, she has been disease-free for years as per bone scan studies, continues on her nutritional program, and continues leading a normal, cancer-free life.

By the standards of conventional oncology, this patient’s complete regression of metastatic disease and very long-term survival must be considered remarkable.

One of my favorite patients, whom I have discussed at times in my lectures, was diagnosed in August 1991 with stage IV pancreatic cancer, with multiple metastases into the liver, into the lung, into both adrenals, and into the bone. After a lung biopsy confirmed adenocarcinoma, his doctors discouraged chemotherapy, telling him and his wife conventional treatments would only ruin his quality of life while offering no benefit.

He was given, as he would later tell me, two months to live.

The patient’s wife, a former college professor with an interest in nutritional medicine, learned about our approach from an article she read in an alternative health journal, and in the fall of 1991 he began treatment with me. Some fifteen months later, repeat CT scans showed stabilization of disease. Since he felt fine at the time, following his program religiously, he decided against any further conventional testing until 1998, seven years after he had started with me, when a series of CT scans confirmed total resolution of his once extensive cancer.

This patient would eventually die at age 85 in 2006, 15 years after his diagnosis, from the residual effects of a serious automobile accident.

To put his case in perspective, I know of no similar case with documented stage IV pancreatic cancer that had spread at the time of diagnosis into multiple organs who survived 15 years after diagnosis with confirmed total resolution of his disease.

For both these patients, in the traditions of the Kelley system I prescribed a plant-based, high carb diet, including multiple servings of fruit, with its content of natural sugar, along with four glasses of carrot juice daily. By Seyfried’s hypothesis, both of these patients should have died quick, miserable deaths under my care.

Currently, after more than 25 years in practice, I am writing a two-volume set consisting of detailed case histories of our own patients, like the two mentioned above, to make the point that the therapy works in practice. For those diagnosed with poor-prognosis solid tumors, many now alive in excess of 10 years, I have prescribed a high carbohydrate diet, in total contradiction to what Dr. Seyfried proposes as the ideal anti-cancer approach.

Just this week as I write this, one of my newer patients, a wonderful, creative inventor and computer whiz from the Washington, DC area, came into my office for his regularly scheduled six month re-evaluation appointment. When he started with me in January 2010, three and a half years ago, he had been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the lung, with multiple tumors in both lungs and with evidence of metastases in his ribs. His local doctors in DC had explained he had terminal disease, for which chemotherapy would be useless.

His rib lesions were causing him so much misery his doctors did suggest a course of radiation for palliative pain control. However, he had learned about my work from a mutual friend who recommended he dispense with all conventional treatments and instead pursue my regimen.

He followed her advice, refused radiation, came to see me, and over the years he has proven to be a very vigilant, determined and compliant patient. Within a year on his nutritional program, which includes a high carb diet, his pain had resolved, his energy, stamina, and concentration had improved, and scans confirmed total resolution of all his original extensive disease – in complete contradiction to what Dr. Seyfried would predict or claim possible.

When I saw the patient in my office during this recent visit, he remarked that over the preceding months, he had been craving more carbs than ever before, so in response he had significantly increased his daily intake of carrot juice, fruits, and starchy vegetables, foods allowed on his diet with no limitation.

With this increased carb intake, he has actually lost 16 pounds of excess weight, and his energy is better than it has been in 30 years. And, he remains cancer free. According to Dr. Seyfried, on this high-carb regimen his cancer, thriving as he claims on sugars, should long ago have exploded with deadly results.

6

Despite Kelley’s and my own positive experience treating cancer patients with non-ketogenic, often high-carb diets, can I muster any data, past or present to support what Seyfried claims? What does past experience and current data show, about the miracle of the ketogenic diet for cancer?

In my previous articles, I discussed my friend, the late Dr. Robert Atkins, the famed diet doctor, who long before Dr. Seyfried appeared on the scene hoped his “ketogenic” diet might be an answer to cancer. During the late 1980s and right through most of the 1990s, Dr. Atkins treated hundreds of cancer patients, many, though not all, with a ketogenic diet, along with a variety of supplements and intravenous vitamin C.

It was 1992, when his chief IV nurse, who had been with him for years, called me, wishing to take me to lunch. I knew him through my friendship with Dr. Atkins, and in fact he had been quietly referring a number of patients to me from the clinic, patients who were not responding to the Atkins’ treatment.

We did meet for lunch several days later, and I was surprised that after some general chatter, he asked me point blank if there was any chance he could work for me! He seemed quite serious, but I explained that my colleague Dr. Linda Isaacs and I didn’t use IV treatments so I would have no use for his particular skills.

Now intrigued, I asked why he would want to change jobs, since our practice was by design slower paced, whereas Bob ran a very busy clinic and active IV unit which would seem perfectly suited for this nurse’s expertise. He then explained, with obvious disappointment, that none of the hundreds of cancer patients they had treated or had been treating had responded to any significant degree, with the exception of those he had referred to me.

The failures had taken an emotional toll on the nurse, who was ready for a change.

Though I would see Bob occasionally at conferences, I never mentioned any of this to him. Some years later we met for lunch in Washington, DC, at a conference where we were both scheduled to speak. To my astonishment, he told me he was closing down his cancer unit completely, to concentrate on his traditional area of expertise – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypoglycemia, the metabolic syndrome – problems for which he knew his nutritional approach with the ketogenic diet worked quite effectively.

In terms of cancer, after more than ten years of trying on hundreds of patients, his treatment had been a disappointment. I certainly appreciated his honesty, and was gratified when he expressed his admiration for what he had been hearing about my successes.

I think it was still hard for him to accept that many cancer patients, and many humans without cancer, did best on a plant-based, high carb diet, so foreign to his way of thinking. Though he had heard me expound on the Kelley approach many times over the years, it was to him implausible that humans as a species had adopted to a variety of diets, some high fat, some high carb, some more balanced, and that in medical practice, we as physicians had to be aware that different patients might require completely different diets for optimal health.

To his grave, as far as I know, he believed that all humans should be on a high fat diet with minimal carbs.

In my opinion, Bob Atkins knew more about the theory and practice of the ketogenic diet, its benefits and limitations, including as applied to cancer patients, than anyone in the history of medicine. For him, the concept was hardly the musings of a PhD laboratory scientist, but the practical observations of a physician who treated thousands of patients over decades. And for cancer, the ketogenic diet just did not seem to work.

Bob wasn’t the only physician, his clinic not the only place, where the ketogenic diet has been applied in modern times. At the Johns Hopkins Medical Center, for many years a group of researchers and neurologists have prescribed a very strict ketogenic diet for children with intractable seizures, that is, seizures unresponsive to currently available medications. For this particular indication, in adults as well as children, the diet works quite well.

So, what evidence does Dr. Seyfried himself provide to prove his point that the best diet for all cancer patients, whatever the type, is the ketogenic, high fat, no carb diet? Well, very little. Certainly the 400 plus pages of elaborate biochemistry and theory are impressive and informative. But in terms of practicalities, that is, results with actual human patients diagnosed with cancer, there is next to no evidence.

Dr. Seyfried does include a chapter toward the book’s end entitled “Case Studies and Personal Experiences in using the Ketogenic Diet for Cancer Management.” Here, Dr. Seyfried provides a description of a pilot study, written by the investigators themselves, discussing the use of the ketogenic diet in children with inoperable brain cancer. However, the authors admit the study was intended only to evaluate the diet’s tolerability and effect on glucose metabolism as determined by PET scanning, not treatment benefit or survival.

As the authors write, “the protocol was not designed to reverse tumor growth or treat specific types of cancer.” The researchers also acknowledge the patient numbers were too small to allow for meaningful statistical evaluation, even for the avowed purposes. Overall, the discussion centers on the practicalities of implementing the diet and the results of the PET scans.

Interesting information, but hardly useful in terms of treatment effect.

In this same chapter, there are also two case reports, neither very impressive. The first, written by the mother, tells the story of a four-year old child diagnosed in 2004 with a low-grade (less aggressive) but quite large and inoperable brain tumor. The parents, as the mother writes, entrusted their child into the hands of the experts, who prescribed the usual “gold standard” treatments, which are not clearly described initially but presumably mean chemotherapy and perhaps radiation.

In subsequent years, the boy continued on aggressive conventional therapeutics, when in 2007, the parents learned of the preliminary research of Dr. Seyfried. While continuing low-dose chemotherapy combined with the ketogenic diet, the patient experienced a “15%” reduction in tumor size. The chemo was eventually discontinued while the parents maintained their son on the ketogenic diet, and the child, sadly, eventually died.

In my monograph One Man Alone, I included a case report of a patient treated by Kelley, diagnosed with an inoperable and very aggressive form of brain cancer that had spread into the spinal canal. After failing radiation, the patient began treatment with Dr. Kelley in 1981. At the time, the patient’s wife actually had to administer the treatment, even the coffee enemas, since the patient himself was largely incoherent and wheelchair bound.

As I wrote in my book, “Nevertheless on the therapy [Kelley’s] he slowly began to improve, to the point his mental status normalized and over a period of a year, he progressed from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane.” When I completed my study in 1987, he had survived 5 years and was in excellent health, with no evidence of cancer in his brain or spinal canal.

A second brief report in Seyfried’s “Case Studies” chapter, this time written by the patient himself, describes a physician who had been diagnosed in 2009 with multiple myeloma, a cancer affecting the bone and bone marrow. The diagnosis came about when the physician fractured his arm while lifting weights.

After scouring the literature, he became quite attracted to the “good science” behind the ketogenic hypothesis, so under Dr. Seyfried’s direct supervision, he began the diet. Though the patient seems quite enthusiastic about his response, he admits in his note that with the diet there has been “no progression,” presumably in terms of x-ray studies, and some improvement in the blood studies. He still considers his disease as “incurable.”

First of all, myeloma patients, even when diagnosed with an aggressive form, often linger for years before the disease advances. I would never have included such a two-year survivor in One Man Alone, or in any other book I have written or plan to write – unless, possibly, there has been documented significant regression of disease, not apparent in this case. I do include a case of multiple myeloma treated by Dr. Kelley in my monograph, a woman diagnosed with extensive cancer throughout her skeleton with evidence of multiple fractures.

When she first consulted with Dr. Kelley in 1977 she was in a near terminal state after having failed intensive chemotherapy. Nonetheless, despite her dire situation within a year she had experienced complete regression of her extensive bony lesions, as documented by x-ray studies. Though in subsequent years her compliance with her nutritional regimen would waver and her disease would in turn recur, invariably when she resumed Kelley’s treatment the myeloma would go into remission.

At the time I finished the monograph in 1987, she had survived 11 years. I found this case acceptable for my Kelley report, but a two-year survivor with no evidence of disease regression but lots of enthusiasm, I would never had included.

I might add that for myeloma patients, Dr. Kelley prescribed, and I prescribe, a high fat diet – but never ketogenic.

Why, one wonders, if Dr. Seyfried’s actual data is so thin, have so many physicians, scientists, and writers jumped on the ketogenic bandwagon?

7

Let me say out front I have no problem with scientists who propose a theory, in short papers or in the case of Dr. Seyfried, in long, detailed books. I do have a problem when scientists go a step further, insisting in the absence of any significant human data or even impressive case histories they have unraveled the mystery of cancer. I am also quite surprised, in the case of Dr. Seyfried, that both alternative and conventional practitioners have risen up in a loud chorus of enthusiasm, as if indeed Dr. Seyfried’s theories are correct, and that he has solved the cancer riddle.

I found a typical response to Seyfried’s book in a review on Amazon, written by the esteemed conventional oncologist Dr. Stephen Strum:

I am a board-certified medical oncologist with 30 years experience in caring for cancer patients and another 20 years of research in cancer medicine dating back to 1963. Seyfried’s “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease” is the most significant book I have read in my 50 years in this field. It should be required reading of all cancer specialists, physicians in general, scientific researchers in the field of cancer and for medical students. I cannot overstate what a valuable contribution Thomas Seyfried has made in writing this masterpiece.

From the alternative front, on his website read literally by millions, Dr. Joseph Mercola has been an enthusiastic supporter of Dr. Seyfried and his ketogenic thesis. In two lengthy articles Dr. Mercola proposes that the ketogenic is an answer to cancer.

In the first posting appearing on his site June 16, 2013, based on an interview with Dr. Seyfried, Dr. Mercola writes in his introductory paragraph:

Could a ketogenic diet eventually be a “standard of care” drug-free treatment for cancer? Personally, I believe it’s absolutely crucial, for whatever type of cancer you’re trying to address, and hopefully someday it will be adopted as a first line of treatment.

In a second article from June 30, 2013, entitled “The Ketogenic Diet – An Excellent Approach to Cancer Prevention and Treatment,” Dr. Mercola discusses the work of Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, PhD, another basic scientist, this time from Florida, who enthusiastically reports his animal and laboratory work with the ketogenic diet.

As I ponder this enthusiasm, I have to think that perhaps I am just a little slower, or more cautious, than most. The day after I first met Dr. Kelley in New York in July 1981, I was on a plane to Dallas to begin my review of Kelley’s charts. As previously discussed, I quickly found among Kelley’s records case after case of appropriately diagnosed poor-prognosis and/or terminal cancer, patients alive five, ten, even 15 years later, with no possible explanation for such survival other than Kelley’s odd nutritional treatment.

After I returned to New York some three weeks later carrying with me copies of dozens of patient records, and after reviewing my findings with Dr. Good, I knew Kelley was on to something. One thing for sure, at the time I didn’t, as I easily could have with my journalism contacts, think about “explosive” news stories, or a book contract.

Quite the contrary, as I discussed in a previous article, I met Kelley through a journalist friend who thought he might make an excellent subject for a potboiler, a wealth-generating best seller. After only a few days in Kelley’s Dallas office, I quickly realized that he, as odd as he may have seemed to some, as peculiar as his therapy might be to conventional researchers, had put together a potentially useful, non-toxic, nutritional cancer treatment.

I also quickly understood that for his approach to gain academic acceptance, Kelley must back off completely from involvement with popular controversial books and media hysteria. When I expressed my opinion about such things to him, he accepted the wisdom of my position unconditionally. When he then told my writer friend in a rather difficult phone call that he had no interest in pursuing the book she had suggested, she was, to say the least, livid with me – especially since she had brought Kelley and me together in the first place, seeking my opinion about his authenticity.

Ironically, because I thought him to be possibly legitimate, I had instructed him to avoid involvement with any popular book including hers. My writer friend would not speak to me for 16 years, until we met at a conference in New York. We hugged, after all those years, and made up.

Only after interviewing 1,000 of Dr. Kelley’s patients, and evaluating 455 of them at length over a five-year period, did I even begin to think about the book that would be written – not a popular potboiler, not a tome expounding his elaborate theories, but a serious academic monograph about our findings. It is just not in my makeup to put out a book with lovely theory and two case reports, however inspiring they might be.

I do have a challenge, a gentlemanly academic challenge of course, to Dr. Seyfried.
In this article, I have presented a number of cases, seven to be exact, four from Kelley’s files and three from my own practice. The four Kelley cases include the 31-year survivor of metastatic pancreatic cancer confirmed at Mayo, the 34-year survivor of stage IV endometrial cancer, the five-year survivor of aggressive brain cancer, and the 11-year survivor of advanced, aggressive multiple myeloma.

The three from my practice include the stage IV 25-year survivor of metastatic inflammatory breast cancer, my 15 year survivor of stage IV pancreatic cancer, and my three and a half year survivor of stage IV lung cancer that has totally regressed on my therapy.

With the exception of the myeloma patient, all the other six patients, both Kelley’s and mine, followed a high carb, plant-based diet, replete with frequent servings of fruit and multiple glasses daily of sugar-rich carrot juice. I challenge, for the benefit of science, Dr. Seyfried to match these seven simple straightforward cases. In my experience, no one else has been able to meet the challenge, so I question whether Dr. Seyfried can either.

The point I’m trying to make is simple. In science, as in most walks of life, a little caution certainly goes a long way. In my practice, I am already receiving letters and faxes and calls from prospective patients diagnosed with advanced cancer of a variety of types, who with great enthusiasm jumped on the ketogenic diet bandwagon – with poor results.

In my next and final article in this series on the ketogenic diet as a cancer treatment, I will offer my suggestions as to why the diet most likely won’t work for most people, based on past epidemiological research and current biochemical thinking.

8

First, as Weston Price proved 70 years ago in his exhaustive epidemiological study, over the millennia different groups of humans adjusted to different types of diets, depending on the locale in which they lived and the available food therein, ranging from high carb to virtual no carb. Though Dr. Price was not evaluating dietary treatments as such for disease, his point should nonetheless be well taken – different humans (for optimal health) need different diets.

In terms of our specific discussion, diet as cancer treatment, Dr. Kelley demonstrated more recently in his Dallas, Texas, and Winthrop, Washington offices, no one diet suits all patients diagnosed with the disease, quite the contrary. Over a 20 year period working in the trenches treating many thousands of people, Dr. Kelley came to learn that each patient who walked into his office required a diet designed specifically for his or her metabolic needs, and these dietary requirements could vary enormously from patient to patient.

Unknown to most, even within the alternative world, my friend Bob Atkins tried the ketogenic diet for some 12 years on many of his cancer patients, with no significant success as he reported to me. As a telling point, under the name “Dr. Robert Atkins” on Amazon, one will find dozens of books he authored including his original diet book, its many incarnations and editions, along with books on vitamins, minerals – but glaringly absent, no book on cancer. Yes, the ketogenic diet has been tried before, with cancer patients, and without success.

I also might offer a thought as to why, from a more esoteric, more biochemical perspective, for most people diagnosed with cancer the ketogenic diet might not work. For the past 150 years, researchers have approached cancer as a disease in which perfectly happy, normal mature cells sitting in some tissue somewhere suddenly go awry, lose their normal regulatory restraint, develop a primitive, undifferentiated appearance or phenotype, begin proliferating without restraint, begin invading through tissues and organs, begin migrating, spreading, creating new blood vessels along the way to feed the rapacious appetite of cancer. But over the past 15 years, gradually, a new, more productive, and I believe more truthful hypothesis has emerged, spearheaded particularly by Dr. Max Wicha at the University of Michigan. Scientists such as Dr. Wicha have discovered that cancer may be a little more complicated than we have thought these long decades.

In recent years stem cells have been a hot topic in the research world, and a hot topic, for better or worse, in the media. These headline-grabbing stem cells are primitive undifferentiated cells, located as nests in every tissue and organ in the body, that serve as a reserve supply to replace cells in the tissue or organ lost due to normal turnover (as in the bone marrow or along the intestinal lining), disease, injury, or cell death.

In this way, stem cells allow complex life to exist and continue, providing tissue replacements as needed, appropriate for the tissue in which they live. That is, liver stem cells will create new liver cells as needed, bone marrow stem cells will create new bone marrow clones as required, intestinal stem cells will form, as necessary, intestinal lining cells. In this way, the developmental capacity of stem cells seems to be governed by the local environment.

After stem cells were discovered in the 1960s, scientists initially thought that they had a limited repertoire, that is, liver stem cells can only create more liver cells, but not bone marrow or intestinal cells, bone marrow stem cells can only create more bone marrow cells, but not liver cells, and so on. But we now know that isn’t the case.

Stem cells, wherever they may be found, can adapt quite nicely, and are far more flexible than originally believed. In laboratory animals, a liver stem cell placed into the bone marrow starts creating not liver, but bone marrow cells, a bone marrow stem cell transplanted into the liver begins to generate not bone marrow, but liver cells. The environment appears to be the key, ultimately determining the direction of stem cell development.

In terms of cancer specifically, many scientists believe that the disease does not develop from normal healthy cells that for some reason go molecularly berserk, but from stem cells that have lost their normal regulatory controls, creating in turn the disease we know as cancer.

Like any normal tissue or organ, in a tumor these cancer stem cells generate a variety of cell types that can mature to some extent, but the stem cells remain always primitive, undifferentiated, capable of replicating endlessly, capable of killing eventually. Most standard therapies fail, Dr. Wicha and his associates believe, because they attack the more mature tumor line, not the essential tumor stem cells, the actual engines of cancer creation.

Dr. Seyfried makes the case that normal stem cells, like cancer cells, are obligatory glucose consumers, relying solely on anaerobic glycolysis for the energy needed for survival. I agree, to a point. But I will also make the case that as with normal stem cells, cancer stem cells are very flexible, capable of adjusting to the local environment.

If deprived of oxygen, stem cells happily will turn to glycolysis as the main source of ATP energy. In an oxygen rich environment, I believe these stem cells can adapt accordingly, recoupling at least to some extent glycolysis to the citric acid cycle and electron transport, with great efficiency, and in terms of cancer, with deadly results.

Some years ago, a patient of mine, a professor at a well-known university, became interested in oxygenation therapies for cancer, used widely in the Mexican Clinics. These “oxygen” treatments were an offshoot of Dr. Warburg’s work, i.e., that cancer cells as obligatory anaerobes can synthesize needed energy supplies only via glycolysis. Therefore, the theory goes, in the presence of oxygen, particularly ozone, a form of hyped up oxygen, cancers cells, unlike normal cells, will be poisoned.

My professor patient seemed quite taken by the ozone approach, which he thought I should start implementing in my practice. However, I become somewhat doubtful about the theory, and the use of ozone as a treatment for cancer. At the time I had already taken care of dozens of patients who prior to consulting with me had been to the Mexican Clinics to receive ozone along with other treatments.

All seemed to have initial good responses followed by explosive return of their malignancy. I explained to my professor patient that I believed cancer stem cells could quickly adapt to oxygen, despite what the Warburgians might claim.

At about this time, ironically, this professor’s dog developed a very aggressive sarcoma, for which standard treatments were of no avail. Enchanted by oxygenation therapies, he actually bought an ozone generating machine meant for rectal installation, which he began, against my advice, using on his most patient dog.

After two weeks, the large tumors, quite evident to the naked eye, regressed substantially, to the professor’s great joy. He called me with the good news, and in a collegial sense, suggested he might be teaching me, the cancer expert, something new. I told him to wait before we came to a conclusion.

Unfortunately, some four weeks later, the professor called me again, reporting sadly that after the initial miraculous response, the tumors had recurred with a vengeance, and the dog had quickly succumbed.

It’s an interesting story but of course just that, a story that I fully acknowledge proves nothing, though in my mind it does illustrate how adaptable cancer cells, specifically cancer stem cells can be. It is a good lesson, for all of us, before we tout the next great cancer miracle.

-Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, MD

This article originally appeared on Natural Health 365.

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  • Sherry Uresti

    I was diagnosed feb 2013 stage 4 lung cancer
    Looking for alternative treatment & help

  • Ian

    Whoa! this is such an interesting – but complex – article. Gonna have to re-read and even print it off to be able for fully understand everything. It does reinforce Chris’s original ideas and thoughts – actually focused me back to keeping it simple
    Brilliant Chris – thanks for your time in putting this together for us to read

    • http://www.chrisbeatcancer.com Chris Wark

      Thank you Ian! Glad you took the time to read it. And yes, keep it simple!

  • http://awakened-breath.com frank

    Excellent information. For me this confirms the truth that every body is different, many things contribute to imbalance, and steer clear of fads. There are tremendous resources out there ( like Chris’ site); do your research, reach out to the many generous people sharing these alternative wholistic modalities, and trust yourself!

  • http://naturaldetoxblog.com/health-benefits-of-cauliflower-powerful-detoxer-cancer-fighter-and-more/ Alex

    The Ketogenic diet has been bugging me for some time. It seemed like it should work; the logic is attractive but what was missing was evidence. I remember you and Dr.Vickers briefly discussing the natural sugars in the Gerson and Modified Gerson diets.

    According to the Ketogenic diet drinking juices should just ignite the Cancer like pouring kerosene on a bonfire.

    I’ve admired the work of Drs Kelly and Gonzalez for years and it was a total delight to watch the video of Dr Gonzalez speaking.

    The Atkins angle was eye opening!

    Thank you so much Chris and Dr Gonzalez too for such a detailed and thorough post.

    I would still love to know what the flaw is in the logic of ketogenesis – is it the stem cell flexibility? That’s the beauty of science that a single ugly fact can kill a beautiful theory!

  • Dory

    Have you read Dr Ralph Moss’s review of the Kelley/Gonzalez protocol? I think you might find it interesting. I have Moss’s report and can fax you the info. Just as Gonzalez “dismantles” the ketogenic diet, Moss does that with Gonzalez protocol.

    For me, it is an endless merry-go-round of opinions, self-interest ( Gonzalez mentions Atkins net worth but does not mention how prohibitive his treatment is) and contradicting information…

    In the end, I believe this to be the truest thing…be your own best doctor…

    • paul hill

      Can we have the link to Moss please Dory.

    • http://www.drreinwald.de Dr. Heinz Reinwald

      Hi Dory,

      I am from Germany and I would like to read the protocol from Moss “dismantling” Gonazales

      Could you better mail me the protocol?

      If not I´d appreciate having it by fax

      +49 9128 73977-29

      Thanks a lot for your help
      Heinz

    • http://www.drreinwald.de Dr. Heinz Reinwald

      sorry, I forgot my email to post for you

      dr.reinwald@web.de

      kind regards
      Heinz

    • Nakos Kotsanis

      Dear Dory

      I am an integrative research scientist and my nakme is Kotsanis Nakos Dr. PhD < we have been researching the Acrouarios protocol (visit Kotsanis Institute)

      please send me Dr Moss's report I would appreciate

    • Patricia Daly

      Dory, I’d love the report, too. My e-mail is patriciawyss@yahoo.com. Many thanks, Patricia

    • Tish Hinojosa Elliott

      May I get it too? Telliott@nnlegalsearch.com.

    • Madhavi

      Would really appreciate a link to the report…
      madhavi_shilpi@yahoo.com
      ajitshilpi@yahoo.com
      Many thanks!

    • Francesc

      Hi Dory and fellow readers. My name is Francesc Miralles and I’m interested in Dr. Moss’s review. I know is a bit late but please, may you send me that document? My email is francesc@mtc.es

  • Rochelle

    Hi Chris! What are your thoughts on a high fat plant-based approach? I’m thinking olive oil, nuts, seeds, coconut, avocado, etc., along with tons and tons of fresh juice and raw veggies.

    • Kathy Howell

      Rochelle, That is what I am doing until I know otherwise that my plan is not working. I am on a very low animal and animal fat diet(cottage cheese being the only animal product because I am using the Budwig protocol). Every day I have raw almond butter, avocados, olive oil and raw veggies and raw veggie juices with plant based protein.
      I have the beginning stages of Lymphoma and if I follow this advice I should be on a high animal fat, animal protein diet. I don’t know..

      • D. Liz

        Hi Kathy: I was diagnosed this March with Stage 2/small lymphocytic lymphoma. I have been following Chris advise as well with the raw, organic, plant base diet; my integrative doctor supports my efforts, since i did that diet strictly for 3 months; however, he tells me the body needs some lean protein; i incorporate small amount organic poultry in my diet and i feel better; i lost 5 pounds, and i was not liking it; now i am back to my original weight and i feel better; i do not know any more, sometimes is too confusing; i have been drinking carrot juice every day; and i will be getting new testing results soon; we will see what comes back. I send you my best heart felt wishes for a recovery period filled with faith and joy. Daisy

  • paul hill

    A SPANNER IN THE WORKS OF THE KEYOGENIC DIET?
    In the link below a Dr. Gonzalez is supposed to TOTALLY demolish the ketone diet to treat cancer.

    Okay, if the ketogenic diet is tho ONLY thing used to treat cancer. sure the tumor/s will probably regrow once the diet is ceased or be of limited value anyway.. But the primary inducer of cancer is HYPOXIA which I’m talking about over and over in my posts, caused by STRESS and ARTERIOSCLEROSIS. So the stress has to be dealt with, biofeedback using a GSR, fully described in my post on stress being the way to go as it’s easy to use and the result is measurable. Now it could be that it is IMPOSSIBLE to eliminate stress in the US, what with all the bloody guns and the massive inequality. Then there is religion and the belief in SIN as an impediment to relaxation. So that has to go. It needs someone to take away the BELIEF in sin and that’s a big ask. Jesus tried that and the mob got it all mixed up and he got splattered because they thought he had to be the Devil to say such a thing. Then because of the way he died they decided that he had to be God instead, thus doing him an even worse injustice,

    The ketone diet is the ONLY way that the arteriosclerosis can be dealt with quickly and the only way to get rid of the build up of the junk in cells by autophagy, most of which is due to glucose. It is when the FLUX is decreased, ie the concentration goes from high to low that gunk that builds up spontaneously when it is high dissolves when it is low. I also talk about a fairly long preparation time, eliminating refined sugar first, doing a 5 hr GTT to test liver function, doing increasing amounts of exercise to BUILD up liver function, absolutely mandatory.

    One point. Not being a professional I have to go into so much detail to explain my case, a lot of which must get quite technical, so that people can understand what is going on, have faith based on understanding. I can’t just make pronouncements with an MD or PhD to give me credence. Credence for me is based on TRUTH not status. Most of these professionals have studied one discipline only, usually molecular biology or biochemistry. I have spent 40 years studying ALL of the disciplines of BIOLOGY, molecular biology, biochemistry, endocrinology, hematology, immunology, toxicology, microbiology, general physiology, pathology, plant and soil biology etc. etc. Only because I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to. It seemed to be the only thing that made sense at the time and it still does. Miss just ONE key point and you can miss it altogether..

    All of this is DIY and affordable for those on a low income especially with Obamacare hanging in the balance. No frightfully expensive sanatoriums needed. Just a blood glucose monitor, blood pressure and rate meter, a tube of Ketostix and a GSR.

  • paul hill

    My Facebook page for the complete works.

    https://www.facebook.com/paulleonardhill

  • Cyndi

    Dr Gonzalez doesn’t talk about Elaine Cantin’s book or her version of the diet, which is nothing like the Ketogenic Diets Dr Gonzalez is disproving.

    Elaine’s cancer came back because she had allergens in her diet (unbeknownst to her at the time) and that coincided with an extremely stressful time in her life.

    She got rid of her cancer AGAIN by getting rid of the stress and allergens and continuing to adhere to her version of the Ketogenic Diet.

    Until Dr Gonzalez acknowledges the differences between her diet and the one he’s trying to disprove, he really can’t say the Ketogenic Diet doesn’t work for cancer.

    I can’t believe he never even mentioned her.

    • GJ

      I don’t think he tried to “disprove” the KG diet. He just stated that it was a stopgap approach that doesn’t cover all the approaches to treatment by itself. Discussing the quality of the ingredients of a diet is an entirely different article. For instance, if you or I tried to mimic the Eskimo’s diet from the early 20th century, we’d die in months, as the animal products we consumed would be even more nutrient and mineral deficient than we are, because they would be fed the same garbage that our crops have become. Wild animals from the early 1900′s however, would probably have higher concentrations of minerals stored in their fat and tissues than any factory raised pig or chicken we have easy access to. Wild animal fat, the blubber from seals- which was good for halting and preventing scurvy in arctic sailors- is practically a multi vitamin with a high calorie energy source.

  • http://sugrmagnolia.blogspot.com Joy

    Wow. Thanks you so much. I have multiple myeloma, and have been trying to start the ketogenic diet with the help of a dietician. I don’t think I’m anywhere near ketosis, but am feeling a lot of benefit from cutting out the carbohydrates and high sugar foods from my diet.

    I wonder if there is anywhere online a basic outline of Dr. Gonazalez’ diet for myeloma patients? I can’t afford to fly across the country and treat with him. I know it’s highly individualized, but a simple outline of what ‘high fat, animal-protein diet” means to him would be very very useful. I’m determined to stay low-carb, but would like to follow as closely as possible what Dr. Gonzalez thinks myeloma patients should be eating. Any ideas, Chris?

    • Kathy Howell

      Joy, We are in the same category.. the blood cancers. I have lymphoma and am wondering the same thing. I was told to stay away from animal protein, animal fats, so this is new to me. A lady called Cortney( in one of Chris’s videos) beat lymphoma without any animal protein.
      Would you like to communicate by email? My email address is khowell071@gmail.com. We could compare notes on this theory since we are in the same category.

      • http://www.chrisbeatcancer.com Chris Wark

        Hi Kathy Cortney healed with a vegan diet plus Budwig (cottage cheese and flax oil). Another guy I know healed leukemia that way too. You should adopt a protocol that resonates with you. If you aren’t getting better you can always make changes to your diet.

        • Arunava

          Chris,
          How can I determine what protocol to follow? Should I start KD? We’re into Juicing/50% raw vegan/budwig for the past one year, fighting Leiomyosarcoma but are uncertain if we’re on the right track.
          Is there any specific blood work/tests that you may recommend?
          Thanks

          • JennyMichelle

            Hi Arunava,
            My sister was diagnosed with leiyomyosarcoma last week. I know this is a rare cancer so seeing your post gives me hope. Can you please give me an update on your health and anything that may have worked for you. Thank you!

    • Pia

      Hi Joy,

      My husband had myeloma too. Do you mind connecting by email – would be interesting to find out how diet is helping you? sunblob@gmail.com Thanks

  • Amber

    Hey Chris! Thanks for posting this video. Do you agree with Dr. Gonzalez stating sugar doesn’t feed cancer? Now I agree natural sugar is beneficial but it is really hard for me to agree with processed sugar not aiding in cancer growth. What is your opinion?
    Thanks!! :)

    • oderb

      Dr Gonzalez does not allow processed sugar use for any of his patients. I know as I am a patient.

  • http://www.canceroptions.co.uk Patricia Peat

    Why do any of these doctors think they can “treat” cancer with diet and there is one perfect answer? Diet is helpful and supportive and some people occasionally get very very lucky, for most people its helpful no more. Gonzalez sounds just like a paternalistic doctor, not somebody empowering people. Everybody should put together their own programmes and learn to become their own healers, not rely on somebody else to cure them.There are no experts on cancer, find what suits you, your beliefs, your lifestyle and take from any approach what makes most sense to you.

  • Sophia

    I was on a ketogenic diet for six months in an effort to lose weight. Based on the information given by Atkins and Gary Taubes, I believed this was a safe diet that would help prevent diabetes and cancer. During the six months, I grew a large tumor in my neck. It turned out to be thyroid cancer that spread aggressively to about 30 lymph nodes around my neck. I was stunned to know that this diet either rapidly progressed an existing cancer or started it. In an effort to find answers, I came across the work of Michael Lisanti. In what I’ve read, it seems he proposes cancer prefers ketones to grow faster. It was eye-opening, but I was able to figure out why my cancer grew so much during that diet. Anyone with cancer, please be very careful before attempting this diet.

    • http://www.chrisbeatcancer.com Chris Wark

      Hi Sophia thank you so much for sharing your experience. Feel free to post some links to the info you found most helpful.

      • Sophia

        Great information is given in the YouTube talk by Lisanti here:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssoAou8Ll6w

        He discusses the role of ketones and lactic acid in cancer as well as medicines such as Metformin which help cancer.

        • Sophia

          Great information is given in the YouTube talk by Lisanti here:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssoAou8Ll6w

          He discusses the role of ketones and lactic acid in cancer as well as medicines such as Metformin which help against cancer.

    • Nancy Craft

      Sophia,

      It has been just the opposite for me. Stage four ovarian cancer and diabetic, this way of eating (ketogenic) is restoring me to health. I am nearly both cancer free and not diabetic now. When I eat this way, my blood sugar and other numbers are wowed by my doctors. When I eat a totally plant based, low-fat, high carb diet, my numbers worsen, my blood sugar soars. I think it is too quick to blame the diet for a tumor, need to do more proper research to establish the cause..

  • Kathy Howell

    Dr. Kelley and Dr. Gonzalez recommends pancreatic enzymes. They treated a lot of pancreatic cancer patients. Are these enzymes mostly for pancreatic cancer patients or all cancer patients.

    • http://www.chrisbeatcancer.com Chris Wark

      Pancreatic enzymes are beneficial for all cancer patients

  • Kathy Howell

    Chris, Digestive enzymes, or specifically pancreatic enzymes?

    • http://www.chrisbeatcancer.com Chris Wark

      Pancreatic

  • D. Liz

    Thank You Chris; i admire your passion and commitment to be of service to others; you are such a gift and the light to us struggling with this disease. A world of thanks for all that you are.

  • Nancy Craft

    I am a stage four ovarian cancer patient, near to being declared cancer-free. I am living proof that the ketogenic diet can return you to health. I am also diabetic, and when I eat this way, my sugar stays low. So low that my number was 5.7 the last time it was checked and I am about to be declared NOT diabetic. When I eat a totally plant-based, high carb, low-fat diet, my numbers, cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides, everything worsens. So even if a doctor takes this apart and says it does not work, I am a living example that ketogenic diets are the best for metabolically challenged, insulin resistant, diabetic and/or cancer patients.

    • http://www.chrisbeatcancer.com Chris Wark

      Hi Nancy, thank you for sharing your experience thus far. I sincerely hope it works for you long term.

  • Sophia

    Nancy,

    Three months into the diet I had great numbers in terms of cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. And yet….. I was very sick with an active and aggressive tumor growing in my neck. So, the numbers were meaningless in terms of reflecting overall health. There are ways to help with diabetes that don’t involve getting into a ketogenic state that more natural and way healthier.

  • Diane

    Thank you so much for posting this article and addressing this issue. This is something that has troubled me for quite some time. My choice seems much clearer now.

  • http://www.alkalife.net/importance_of_alkalinity.htm Grietsion

    An alkaline PH in the body will not allow cancer cells to grow… not only cancer, but other ailments are caused by an acidic body. There is a wonderful article about the importance of an alkaline PH in your body at http://www.alkalife.net/importance_of_alkalinity.htm

  • Lisa L.

    Gotta love Charlotte! What an inspiration that woman is! I actually hear her voice when I stray in the supermarket to areas where I should not go, lol!

  • Janet

    I was on a low-carb diet–with lots of eggs every morning–several years before I developed tongue cancer (originally
    triggered by nickel in a dental crown combined with bile/acid reflux). I got surgery but refused chemo and radiation. It’s been over four years and no sign of recurrance. But in the meantime I have steadily moved toward eating more grains and vegetables and less red meat and animal fat. Cultured dairy seems okay but lately no butter or eggs at all. The eggs seemed to cause an inflammatory disturbance in my eyelids. Plus I recently read a few articles online that claimed a connection between high egg consumption and certain cancers, one of which was tongue cancer…which sounded implausible until I noticed recently that I no longer have a problem with reflux.

    • Jill

      Eggs do not cause cancer. If they did, everyone who eats eggs would get cancer, and that simply is not the case. Our bodies create inflammation to heal and repair. The eggs caused inflammation to help something that needed healing. Animal fats will detoxify the body.

  • Maly Tran

    Chris, thanks for this information. And yes I agree that we all need to be our own doctor and decide what is best for us. But I must say that at least I know where to go now when I reach the end of my rope. Looked like Dr. Gonzalez has a lot of successful story. Did you post where to contact Dr. Gonzalez if we ever need him. Thanks again for spreading the word that there are natural cure for everyone.

  • habibil’amour

    Even Wikipedia (notoriously anti-alternative) says that Steve McQueen died from complications from surgery, not cancer…what he was doing was working but he wanted to get rid of the dead tumours as quickly as possible.

  • Emma

    Chris can you kindly tell me if you know where I can buy pancreatic enzymes in Australia as they won’t ship from the US? Or how I can get them here? Also if you know of any doctors / therapists practicing Dr Kelley’s or Dr Gonzalez work in Australia. As time is of the essence, this is much appreciated. Many thanks Emma

  • kasongo mp

    Thanx for this article. I have chronic myeloid leukemia and am taking imatinid for my chemotherapy. Am feeling fairly ok but can a dietary change take me off the drug?

  • Tuan

    You didn’t know about these guys?

    http://cancercompassalternateroute.com/therapies/ketogenic-diet-for-cancer/

    http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2012/december/starving-cancer-ketogenic-diet-a-key-to-recovery/

    FYI the ketogenic diet not only cures, but it also prevents cancer. And the science behind it is rock solid.

    I wish you continuing good health. 8-)

    • Koen

      I’m with Tuan on this. (To be honest I haven’t read the whole article yet, but I sure will). I also truly believe in ketogenic diet. It’s one of the few diets that make sense to me.

      In this topic, you said “Survivors trump science”, what I do understand.
      I know you focus your attention to people who want to recover from cancer, so I will not disagree with you on this.

      But the whole thing set me thinking…
      People who prevented cancer there whole life, aren’t they survivers too ?
      How I see it, is that our immune system is fighting cancer cells every second in our body. But a good immune system will never let it get out of hand, so cancer will also never be diagnosed. But that does’t mean that we are not defeating cancer time after time.

      In short, I still do believe that ketogenic diet is great to prevent cancer.

      But anyway, deep respect Chris, to inspire us, and give real hope to all who needs it ! Keep it up !

    • Jill

      Isn’t the Ketogenic diet what most of our hunter gatherer ancestors ate, and they had no cancer. Look at the eskimos. They eat mostly fish, meat and fat. No cancer problems that I know of. We have been taught that we NEED carbs. Not true. Our bodies can make sugar as needed. Many of our ancestors would not have had access to fruit, especially year round. Also, the potato can be toxic and was not eaten by our earlier ancestors. We do not have the cellulase enzyme so we cannot break down the tough cellulose in plants. Our ancestors did not eat a lot of plants, certainly did not eat salads. Why do people refuse to look at what our ancestors ate before all these neolithic diseases came about? To me it’s a no brainer. If a plant based diet helps one overcome cancer, great. I don’t think it’s a long-term solution though, but that is my opinion. Meat from a healthy grass fed animal does not cause cancer. An unhealthy terrain, stress, etc does.

  • pam

    Hi,

    i think we should probably distinguish between short term ketosis vs long term ketogenic diet.

    i believe short term is very beneficial just like intermittent fasting.

    long term ketosis seems to lower the immune the system & thyroid, maybe other problems, just like many extreme diets.

    Paul Jaminet wrote some nice articles about the harm of long term KD.

    regards,

  • Avis Long Boutilier

    My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma of the lung with metastasis to his lymph nodes, liver and bones in Sept 2013. He has been doing chemo therapy and has had radiation as pain relief on his bones. He was given 6 – 12 months to live. I am having a hard time finding any natural treatments for him. Every time I read a book or article the next one debunks it. If anyone can direct me to a holistic natural diet for his specific cancer I would be so grateful.

  • Georgiana

    I am battling brain cancer, with an inoperable tumor for which there is no medical cure. I chose to treat myself with diet, but was very confused if I should go for the whole food plant based (WFPB) approach or the ketogenic approach. I was afraid all the carbs in the fruits and veggies, grains and legumes, would feed the cancer. After seeing what the long term survivors did, I chose the plant based approach and I my tumor has been stable since. However, I still had this fear that maybe I was eating too many carbs and sugar from fruits etc. The book “The Low-Carb Fraud” by T Colin Campbell gave me peace of mind and that is why I want to recommend it here. It explains more about why the Ketogenic or Atkins type of diets do not work for cancer.

    • Eilene

      Terrific article and great summary of Cancer research, the good and bad. It reads almost like a personal history, having spent my career in cancer research. The common result from all of these competing diets is lowering Inflammation in the body. Having a strong, well balanced immune system is also essential. (Over stimulated, the immune system can attack the body. Auto-immunity, when the body is totally out of balance, is another interesting and complicated topic.) Whether you believe it is the way God designed us, or the way we evolved, the human body needs wholesome nutrition with as much variety possible. We need glucose to function, but at low levels to avoid insulin spikes. It is Inflammation we have to control. Angiogenesis is a natural part of the healing process, as well as a woman’s monthly cycle. Cancer cells, working in concert with Inflammation, stimulate the production of too many lymphokines, cytokines, etc. which allows inappropriate Angiogenesis, providing a blood supply to growing tumors. Stem cells are very adaptable; cancer stem cells diabolically so.
      I appreciate the comment that we are ALL fighting cancer everyday and avoiding any disease is better than treating it. Prevention is always the best choice. Our body is the healer, and it needs our help. A diagnosis of cancer may require surgery, radiation, possibly even chemotherapy to de-bulk tumor and give your immune system a fighting chance to mop up those sneaky cancer stem cells left behind. I have been diagnosed with cancer twice, so I understand the pain and frustration of those of you who are seeking answers. This is the most important battle you will ever win. I have done my best to adopt a balanced lifestyle to keep stress low, eliminate as many chemicals as possible, restorative sleep and eat healthy. Yes, this means refined foods in general are OUT, particularly sugar. Choose the diet that works best with your particular metabolism to eliminate insulin spikes. The Carbohydrate Addicts Diet (Heller and Heller) works best for me. Maintain low acidity, and most importantly, low Inflammation. Over the past few years I have also incorporated the use of pure, Therapeutic grade, Essential oils. Many have anti-inflammatory properties. My blood panel markers for Inflammation have gone from sky high to very low. Cancer/Inflammation/Disease!! Been there, done that. Never going there again.

      • Morgana

        I have several problems with Dr. Gonzalez’s “debunking” of the ketogenic diet. For instance:
        1) Just because, in the past, there were many other promising cancer cures that failed, this doesn’t automatically mean that the ketogenic diet isn’t going to work. This is not a sound argument, in my opinion, but rather a way to create bias in the reader’s mind.
        2) Just because something like carrot juice may work as a cure doesn’t automatically mean the ketogenic diet also won’t work. There seem to be different pathways to ridding the body of cancer; one may be starving the cancer, the other may consist of making the environment inhospitable to the cancer cell, a third method may actually kill the cancer cell itself. I don’t believe it’s an either/or situation. There could be certain compounds in carrot juice (or other “high sugar” foods) that kills cancer cells. Obviously, if you’re on Dr. Seyfried’s ketogenic diet you most likely won’t be drinking carrot juice because that diet cures cancer through a different pathway. I felt Dr. Gonzalez was “putting words into” Dr. Seyfried’s mouth by claiming that it goes against what he states to be true. Maybe both methods work.
        3) I tried to find information about Atkins and his ketogenic diet for cancer, but could find nothing except what Gonzalez says; so it’s hard to argue that point, since I don’t know enough about it. However, a few thoughts come to mind: 1) Seyfried uses a calorie restricted diet as well for cancer. I don’t know if Atkins was doing this. 2) Even though Atkins was a pioneer in ketogenic diets, we have more research under our belts now and are constantly learning new things about the diet. 3) We are now more aware of which fats are unhealthy for humans; I’m not sure what fats they consumed mostly in the Atkins unit for cancer, but I suspect something like the wrong fats- (for instance, some vegetable oils may be carcinogenic)- could affect cancer growth.
        Lastly, as ketogenic diets for cancer are not yet widespread and are relatively new, of course it’s more difficult to find long term survivors. Many of the testing that has been done (in Germany for instance) has been with people who were basically at death’s door and had exhausted every other treatment option, and there were still very promising results. I have heard and read about people who were basically told that they were about to die, who went on and cured themselves with a ketogenic diet; these people do exist. So I wouldn’t just throw it away as a possibility.

  • guest

    yes cancer is more dynamic than eating right or wrong food.
    Ketogenic diet is worth a try if it doesn’t help u have lost nothing & is probably better than how your eating now. Unfortunatley it seems that it is just too hard for conventional or alternative med. to publish a study with say 50 people on it & see what happens. I wonder why?

  • Bill

    I see that you are trying really hard to “dismantle” the findings. I also see from your website how hard you are trying to sell your services and books. Most amazing is that you don’t provide a standard email address to contact you.

    In the 21st century, we use email to communicate. While you may have some novel information about cancer treatment, you detach yourself from the rest of the world by creating the barrier to communication. This article, while well written, does not come close to what Syfried has done in terms of putting information out in terms of allowing public opinion and critical feedback.

    I can send Syfried an email. And get a response. That’s called dialogue. Your web site looks like it was built around 1997. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to get over yourself and get into the 21st century.

    • Chris Wark

      Hi Bill. This site is all about free information. If you think all I’m trying to do is sell books and coaching, then clearly you haven’t spent much time here.

      I do have an email, and anyone can email me through my contact page (there’s a link to that at the top and bottom of every screen), or by commenting on a post like you just did. When your website (which I’m sure is much cooler than mine) gets over 200k hits per month perhaps you’ll understand why I don’t post my email address.

      Also your pen pal Seyfried (whose name you misspelled twice) has never cured anyone of cancer with a keto diet. He can’t even cure rats!

      • Bill

        I’m sorry, Chris, that you misunderstood my comment. I wasn’t referring to your blog. I was speaking of Dr. Gonzalez web site. There is no way too contact him by email or a “contact us” page. He claims that email can be intercepted, but allows faxing and mail. Both of which are easier to subvert.
        If someone wanted a dialogue with him, I guess we could dig the fax machine from the trash bin or send it through the mail. But of course, he will let you post your own email address into a “subscribe” box with zero encryption (clear-text) so that you can be subject to a one way marketing approach.
        The only way to get information from Dr. Gonzalez is to buy it. He tells a good story, but his claims are dubious at best. Seyfried (spelled correctly so you don’t have to focus on something irrelevant), is not an MD. He doesn’t treat patients. And although he has a highly reviewed book available to detail all of the very well research physiological science in his findings, people wanting information about it don’t have to buy it.

  • Surviving lymphoma

    It seems that you are giving out advice partly based on anecdotal evidence of survivors that you know. I work with a naturopath who recommends the ketogenic diet for lymphoma and other cancers, based on clinical trial results and his experience with cancer patients and survivors. It’s working for me as well, but I’m on the diet because of the scientific evidence behind it, not just anecdotes from survivors.
    There may be various diets and nutritional plans that result in tumor reduction and long term survival. You don’t need to discredit the ketogenic diet to be right about other diets.

  • Colin P. Müller

    Bulls hit

  • a Registered Dietetic Student

    The ketogenic diet is described in just about all research articles as “slowing growth” of cancer cells and/or “suppressing tumor regrowth”. From my knowledge and time spent researching and learning about cancer and the ketogenic diet, the research I have read has said this diet “may provide beneficial treatment”. There is proof this diet works, the official scientific study groups may not be very big and there hasn’t been very many trials performed, but several studies have been completed and are planned to impose on cancer cells unique energy metabolic properties that exclusively use glycolysis for ATP production.
    There are no adverse side effects from following this diet, if it is followed correctly. And this is still a new topic in science that is growing in research. Every human body is completely different, and those who are seeking an alternative treatment for cancer through a restrictive diet plan should consult a professional Registered Dietitian. An RD is specialized to help each individualized body attain a healthy lifestyle for their own specific needs. They should NOT consult the internet and blog junkies for nutritional advise. Seek an expert in nutrition.

    • Chris Wark

      All the rats in studies that show a delay in cancer while on the ketogenic diet still eventually died of cancer. I would call death an adverse effect.

      And yes, everyone make sure you consult with an RD, someone who is registered with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an organization sponsored by Coke. Pepsi, Kellogs, Genreal Mills and the National Dairy Council. LOL!

      See for yourself
      http://www.eatright.org/corporatesponsors/

  • referedwr

    This guy is talking about lack of evidence, which I dont really know because I am new but BIGGER problem is second site i went to read about his way of treatment says exactly the same totaly no DATA . And I just want if someone has data on both treatment make comment with links but real data .

  • ecoresearch

    Oncologists see patients with well-established cancers. The theory of metastasis leads them to believe that future tumours in new places develop from the initial cancer. I don’t think that biopsy and genetic analysis is routinely done to confirm this.
    So if a patient is susceptible to cancer (mesothelioma was mentioned in the article) many new tumours are likely to be caused by the persisting cause of the first one.
    Where diet is a cause (obesity correlates strongly with cancer incidence), a diet change could stop the independent tumours, whilst the metastatic ones might not be stopped. So you would expect a Gaussian distribution in the success of diet in curing advanced cancers. To quote mesothelioma really tells us nothing since the asbestos is still in the lung and migrating through the tissues.
    Carrots are 5% sugar and 3% fibre, and contain a lot of the antioxidant beta-carotene.
    Cabbage is 3% sugar and 2% fibre. Dr. Lustig (an obesity specialist) has pointed out that where nature puts the poison (sugar) it also puts the fibre, so that gut bacteria reduce our sugar uptake. The antioxidant/fibre ratio in carrots might well be more beneficial than in cabbage.
    Diabetics get a blood-glucose spike at 4 am. My belief is that intra-abdominal fat that drains into the upper mesenteric vein and then straight into the hepatic portal of the liver is the cause of this spike.
    Inflammation, arteriole damage and cell-damage which can lead to cancer, are well-known to increase with blood-glucose levels.
    I speak as a marginal diabetic (I cured it with more exercise and a higher protein diet) who 3.5 years ago developed diabetic retinopathy (which I cured with a diet composed of 600gms. greens a day and <50gm. carbohydrate, so no root vegetables not even carrots). I did eat 75gm. berries daily, with milk (recently full-fat), with no effect on the rate of improvement in the retina, which is photographed annually.
    I am not a doctor, but it worries me that Dr.Gonzalez does not mention the things I allude to above.
    To avoid cancer, it is probably wise to have a low carbohydrate diet, rich in non-root vegetables (except perhaps including carrots), to get plenty of exercise especially around meal times to avoid glucose-spikes, and to slim enough to eliminate intra-abdominal fat. Avoiding sugar seems essential, especially when it is not wrapped up with fibre and anti-oxidants. Gut transit time goes up on my sort of diet, so I take psyllium husks in water an hour before dinner, to reduce the colo-rectal risk.
    Here in the UK, Macmillan Nurses who look after cancer patients, are running a TV advert promoting coffee mornings, with huge amounts of sugared cakes being shown. This appears very irresponsible.
    The general advice is that we should get our sugars from fruit where it is balanced by fibre and anti-oxidants.

Hi there!

My name is Chris Wark.
I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2003, at 26 years old.
I had surgery, but refused chemo.
Instead I used nutrition and natural therapies to heal myself.
By the grace of God, I'm alive and kicking, and cancer-free!

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