R.I.P. Steve Jobs: and the ketogenic diet versus pancreatic cancer?



By now, the world is aware that Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computers, has passed away, likely due to losing his battle with pancreatic cancer.  Unlike others, I’ll attest that Jobs was an asshole, but one that I can use as a hero to my own assholeness: we both know what’s best for you, and you’re going to take it or GTFO.

I won’t get deep into what he did, we all know the basics.  I am no fan of the iPhone or iPod Touch and I absolutely detested every Mac product I ever owned.  I do have an iPad 1, but I rarely use it.  My favorite products were the Apple Newton MessagePad (I owned 5!) and his line of workstations called the NeXT, a product he developed and sold when he cut free from Apple.  Had he not held on to patents and copyright so tightly, I would give him much greater support for his later devices, but I do understand the love people have for all things Apple.

The purpose of this article is to dig deeper into cancer: not just the pancreatic cancer that Jobs has, but cancer as a social problem.  Something like 500,000 Americans die every year from cancer, and billions of dollars are spent every year to treat it, research it and try to stop it.

I’ve been blessed that my family does not have a major history of cancer: other than the typical prostate problems that affect practically all older men, we’ve died of other causes.  Still, with cancer on the rise, combined with my own hypochondria, I’ve always tried to be aware of what I can do to reduce the various cancers I’ve seen take the lives of people I love, trust and have been friends with.

The one area I’ve come across over and over that seems to be at the forefront of medical treatment for cancer, but is ignored in the mainstream press, is the ketogenic diet.  The ketogenic diet, in simplest terms, is a diet that reduces blood glucose to zero or near zero by focusing on consuming very high fat and minimal protein.  Blood glucose is basically sugar in the blood, one of the body’s energy sources to feed the brain.  It’s also the way that most humans power their brains, due to our high carbohydrate/protein and low fat diets we tend to follow.  The other energy source for the brain is the ketone, which is energy that is synthesized by the body from body fat and fat that we consume in our diet.  From the studies I’ve read, it seems that glucose is a primary energy source for cancer cells — allowing them to multiply and metastasize.

For the body to produce ketones for brain energy, there has to be almost no glucose in the blood.  When your body is free of blood glucose, it enters a metabolic mode called ketosis, which means it is taking apart fat you’ve eaten or fat stored on your body and turning that fat into energy (ketones, again).  If you’re a healthy adult (not obese, not suffering from diabetes, etc), your brain gets its energy from ketones when you’re asleep, since you can’t very well eat anything that turns into glucose then.

My research into treating cancer with a ketogenic diet started with finding a small research study where a patient with a very deadly form of brain cancer was put on a ketogenic diet and the doctors discovered that they couldn’t find a trace of cancer in her brain after it using a variety of medical imaging technologies.  After they took the patient off the diet, within 10 weeks the cancer had returned.  Their summation of their research is that the ketogenic diet may be one form of treatment for this type of brain cancer.

What about Steve Job’s pancreatic cancer?  Another study shows that fructose may be the ultimate fuel for making that cancer grow.  As numerous doctors and dietitians I follow say that fructose in excess amounts can be deadly — both for creating the path to diabetes as well as being a fuel for cancer — it’s no surprise that other researchers also worry about fructose in cancer aggravation.  Sad that one of the greatest fuels for the pancreatic cancer that killed Jobs is the primary energy you get from eating an apple.

Dietary fructose, unlike dietary glucose (which is the primary carbohydrate in potatoes and other starchy root vegetable organs), is found in fruits and of course in corn syrup (“high fructose corn syrup”).  While the liver can convert fructose into glucose at low levels, higher levels of fructose overwhelm the liver and can even lead to non-alcoholic liver disease – basically shutting down one of the body’s most important toxin cleaners.

Because fructose can elevate blood glucose levels so quickly, it’s a wonder to me that so many  doctors who treat cancer patients actually recommend a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates!  It amazes me — thousands of doctors online tell their patients to eat less fat and more fruits, even with quite a bit of evidence that fruits and the fructose they contain may actually make the cancer worse.

Many “health” foods also contain very high fructose: agave nectar, an industrially-created artificial sweetener is almost all fructose, and not healthy by any means.  Honey is also almost entirely fructose.  A watermelon?  Practically all fructose.

One of my favorite medical doctors online (who is not specifically a cancer researcher but has worked with hundreds of patients to battle modern day diseases), Dr. Kurt G. Harris, has said:

 I would advocate long term ketosis in those with neurodegenerative brains diseases like Alzheimer dementia and Parkinson disease, and a 10 day water fast followed by long term ketogenic diet is worth trying if you have cancer.

In another post, Dr. Harris continues on the same idea:

If I were diagnosed with cancer I would get on a ketogenic diet immediately. As much as 85% fat, 15% protein or maybe 80/10/5. Get Vitamin D levels above 100 ng/dl – no proof that is better but insurance against lab miscalibration.

If you’re a regular reader of Dr. Harris, he’s not anti-carb at all, just anti-wheat and excessive fructose consumption, as well as having a great dislike for industrial cooking oils (canola, corn, soybean, etc), which are a proven path to excess inflammation in the body, and can create a breeding ground for cancers as well.

The Holden Comprehensive Care Center at the University of Iowa is currently looking for research participants in a study.  The title of their future study is “Ketogenic Diet With Concurrent Chemoradiation for Pancreatic Cancer (KETOPAN)” – I’ll definitely be monitoring their site and PubMed for any updates as to what the results offer.

In 1995, a study of just two patients suffering from cancer was done by the University Hospitals of Cleveland, also putting the patients on the ketogenic diet.  Their results:

Within 7 days of initiating the ketogenic diet, blood glucose levels declined to low-normal levels and blood ketones were elevated twenty to thirty fold. Results of PET scans indicated a 21.8% average decrease in glucose uptake at the tumor site in both subjects. One patient exhibited significant clinical improvements in mood and new skill development during the study. She continued the ketogenic diet for an additional twelve months, remaining free of disease progression.

Since 2007, some German cancer doctors and researchers have been putting cancer sufferers on a high-fat, low-carb, low-protein diet — the ketogenic diet — and have had some great results:

The good news is that for five patients who were able to endure three months of carb-free eating, the results were positive: the patients stayed alive, their physical condition stabilized or improved and their tumors slowed or stopped growing, or shrunk. These early findings have elicited “very positive reactions and an increased interest from colleagues.”

Of course, there are so many studies that offer so many conflicting results, but my own (anecdotal) view of every single person I know who has died of cancer is that their doctors recommended low fat, more fruit, and the standard response of chemotherapy and radiation.  Not every cancer is the same, not every cancer can be treated the same way, but it makes me think again about the Standard American Diet — can it be the major reason why we’re suffering from all of these cancers at such alarming rates?

Look again at what Dr. Harris said above: if he was suffering from cancer, he’d switch his diet to 85% animal fat, and 15% protein.  Protein can be converted to glucose in the blood, so reducing protein to the bare minimum makes sense.  The human body can exist eating almost 100% fat — and cultures that do eat almost 100% fat tend to have none of the diseases of civilization we experience in Western society (cancer, diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease, etc).  Is it smart to just consume 100% always?  No, it’s not the best for living the lifestyles we live today, but it does offer some support to reducing our toxic carbohydrate intake (corn syrups, wheat, refined sugars, high fructose fruits, etc) and focusing on more healthy, real foods.

And if you’re suffering from cancer, it might not hurt to talk to a doctor who has had successes with a ketogenic diet — depending on the cancer you’re suffering.  I’m not a doctor, but the ones I trust online and in real life have all made my life healthier and better, even as I get closer to the age of 40, by reducing those toxins and focusing on real foods and animal fats — and being mindful of the toxic forms of carbohydrates.

Related posts to peruse:

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  3. Nownership — the Internet redefines property
  4. In Defense of Hunting
About A.B. Dada

A.B. Dada resides in Chicago, Illinois and manages a multitude of businesses involved across a wide range of industries.

Comments

  1. Some pretty solid evidence regarding success in using a ketogenic diet in children with seizure disorders, also. I’d have to google the links, but it’s out there. CLEARLY has neurological impact.

    • A.B. Dada says:

      Absolutely — in fact, in some children with severe epilepsy, as much as a tiny bite of a candy bar can bring them weeks of constant seizures. I’ve read all that research, too — it’s been used since the early 1900s to treat epilepsy and only recently has gained some strength in the medical community.

  2. EminentGrise says:

    I have read some of the same research you talk about. I started a low carb diet a little more than a month ago after years of being morbidly overweight. I made some gains at first but plateaued out after a few weeks. Then I got some ketone strips and found I wasn’t in ketosis. The next day I only ate protein, fats and no carbs whatsoever. That immediately put me into ketosis and the weight started coming off, even though I still have a few carbs every day, mostly vegetables, I am still in ketosis. I lost six pounds the next week after nine in the preceding month. I got started on low carbs after my brother-in-law lost fifty pounds. He is in remission for non-Hodgkin lymphthoma and I will have to ask him if that was the reason he went low carb.

    • A.B. Dada says:

      Great job, EG!

      I’m not a doctor, but I love reading the research debates on diet and health, and trying out some self-testing when I come across interesting new opinions.

      For me, a high fat (50-60% fat calories) is the best. If I eat too much protein, it converts to glucose and I crash HARD.

      Keep up the strong focus, and feel free to update me with your progress or if you have any questions

      -ABD

      • D says:

        When consuming 50-60% fat calories, what are your go-to food sources? What foods do you eat that contain that fat?

        • A.B. Dada says:

          I have heavy cream with my coffee in the morning — preferably pastured heavy cream from grass fed cows. 2 ounces of cream to 3 ounces of coffee (500+ calories)

          I go through about a stick of butter every day.

          When I make a steak, I ask the butcher to keep the fat on it versus trimming it.

          I consume offal (organ meat) from ruminant animals 2-3 times a week — very high in fat and bioavailable micronutrients.

          If I make a hamburger, I usually started with grass-fed 65% lean and grind in extra fat. Some of it cooks away, of course.

          • D says:

            That makes sense. I was wondering if you were consuming (all) meat products to get your fats. I used to consume a lot of grass fed dairy, and my energy levels were fantastic. I’m going to get back to that.

          • A.B. Dada says:

            The biggest issue with heavy meat intake is the protein content. Protein converts to glucose in the blood pretty quickly if you take in more protein than the body can utilize for muscle building and maintenance. The process, gluconeogenesis, can happen slower than consuming carbohydrates, but it does happen.

            Fat itself can also convert to glucose in the body through gluconeogenesis — the body does this naturally while in ketosis in order to feed the brain the minimum glucose it needs beyond ketones, but this occurs from the glycerol portion of fat (fat is broken down into glycerol and fatty acids) so it isn’t as “strong” as carbohydrate intake or excess protein intake.

            I always feel my best with a high fat diet, although I have introduced more starches into my diet specifically to secure a consistent glycogen store for muscle use on heavier work days. I also do have at least 1 day a week of a longer term intermittent fast — those days I feel my best as my body is getting energy strictly from my body fat stores and glycogen stores in my muscle.

            Let me know how your higher fat diet attempt goes, I’m always interested!

            Thanks.

  3. M. says:

    What are your thoughts on the Gerson Method?

    • A.B. Dada says:

      M: I’m not a doctor and I have no medical training.

      That being said, the Gerson Method, which is low fat, low protein, and a lot of fruit juice is just scary to me.

      With all of the connection between fructose being some cancer’s best energy source, the idea of drinking 104 ounces of fructose-based fruit juice doesn’t sound like a good response.

      Of course, consult with a doctor before attempting any treatments, and follow their advice.

  4. M. says:

    Nah, I know. I’m not a cancer sufferer, either, so it was more an academic exercise because I figured you’d come across it during all the research discussed above and wanted to see what you thought. That’s pretty much how I came out as well once I saw all that fruit juice. I have seen some amazing results pictures, though, so wondered if you had seen contrary evidence/reviews elsewhere.

    PS-I also wanted to thank you. You put me onto the Primal diet/lifestyle via comments in the Roissysphere. Did the research on it and started in a couple months back; loving it ever since so thanks. Appreciate your comments over there as well. No homo (guess that doesn’t need to be said given I found this from Roissy’s site).

    • A.B. Dada says:

      Congrats on taking on the primal lifestyle — I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t found great results even just 3 months in. Let me know if you need any help, there’s plenty of holidays ahead to throw you off balance re: family meals.

      As for the juice diet, I can’t imagine it being healthy. I was never one for juice, even when I was a high carb, low fat kinda guy.

      • M. says:

        Ditto here re: juice; and all those years of high carb, low fat seem like such a waste at this point, but se la vie.

        Thanks for the encouragement and offer – I may just reach out to you for some guidance at some point. Maybe even on some of the other topics visited here and on the Chateau.

        • A.B. Dada says:

          Awesome M — I’m always available via email at adam.dada at gmail.com — and I do field plenty of comments, criticisms and questions regularly.

          Stick to it, your reputation will soar.

  5. collegeboy says:

    Thank you.

    Please keep writing. Your are wise.

  6. collegeboy says:

    I don’t trust the so called experts, any more. These so called experts are thinking about how to make money and not on solving peoples problems.

  7. I did not know honey was high in fructose. I thought it was sucrose. I have read about keto diets helping with seizures but was not aware of the cancer benefits. Supposedly hot peppers and garlic as well help with killing the cancer cells.

  8. R. London says:

    I am an almost 50 year old female who has been on the ketogenic (Modified Atkins for Seizures) for 5 months now. I have been seizure free for the full five months, the last 3 being also medicine free. The diet has been used since the 1920′s for children with epilepsy. Dr. Eric H. Kossoff with Johns Hopkins has been studying it in the last 6 or so years in adults and has found that adults do not have to be quite so strict, hence, the Modified Atkins Diet. I follow the book “Ketogenic Diets, Treatments for Epilepsy and Other Disorders, 5th Addition. Still find it hard to believe that something as simple as this diet can control my seizures!

  9. ABAHA says:

    Hi,

    I discovered the hard experimental way that all of my IBS problems (I was having stomach pains, bloating, lots of gas, sleepless nights) were almost cured by removing sugar and fruits from my diet. My died didn’t contain any junk foods for a while, either. Now, the only IBS symptoms that I do get are due to psychological stress, such as forcing myself to approach dozens of girls after being isolated for weeks due to work.

    I do also bodybuild, so the diet that seems to work for me, without side-effects, but with some necessary supplements (since I’m pushing my body very very hard) is very very basic: vegetables, greek style yoghurt, hemp protein powder (no other ingredients), goats’ milk, beef, water, green tea, pasta and fish. That’s it! In the proportions that I eat, this is a high-carb, high-fat, high-protein, low-sugar diet. Before that, I went low-carb and my body toned up but it didn’t really grow. Now with the extra carbs, I’m making huge gains and feel more clear-minded than ever. And every single thing I eat now has a very specific purpose. Fuck yeah.

    The difficult part is sorting out the food and cooking it all for yourself, which does take time and also means that I simply have to refuse food offers from other people, because they eat for the joy and not the function and shove down all sorts of shit like alcohol, pizzas, down their throats.

    Oh, and doctors are fucking useless with suggesting what not to eat. I might have some trouble with eating too much protein, but hey – it’s done for a reason: of wanting to be successful – as opposed to just eating for the sake of eating it.

    Hope this helps for anyone having health problems. Might not suit your body, but might be worth trying.

  10. Kerbox says:

    People do not realize how important this style of diet is for many diseases/conditions, also take a look at Terry Wahls youtube clip called Minding Your Mitochondria where she tells her story of reversing her Multiple Sclerosis after conventional treatments failed.

    Personally I have also suffered from ME/CFS for nearly 12 years and one of the first recommendations by the community or specialists is to remove all sugars and hollow carbs which many find helpful.

    What I find ironically about all this is that a keto/paleo style diet is not telling us about treating disease but probably actually telling us why we are developing disease in the first place, it clearly highlights everything wrong with modern day eating.

  11. vW says:

    I suspect that high Acetone levels may facilitate Histone changes and DNA repair in cancer cells; possibly being a mechanism for spontaneous remission induction.

  12. I approached the Gerson Institute after I found out I had a brain tumor, and thank God they turned me away. Everyone on that diet sounds like they’d rather be dead. Instead, I was directed to a doctor who advised that I get on a ketogenic diet right away. I wish I had more success to report, but I haven’t been very strict. It’s hard… going out to eat is hard, living in this modern society with all of it’s temptations is hard, hard hard. But I am going to attack this keto thing again with steel-like reserve. After all, my life is in the balance here.

    • A.B. Dada says:

      It’s not the diet of choice, but in so many brain disorders (cancer, epilepsy, autism), ketogenic is a must.

      Is it hard to stick to it? Absolutely — but it may also brings years of better living.

  13. Jonathan says:

    I found your site Googleing for a friend on pancreas and ketogenic diets. I have taken inspiration from Jimmy Moore and have started shooting for 80+ Cal. from fat. Loving it. Hunger is gone. Weight loss is slower than it has happened in the past but good and my blood sugars are starting to normalize after some Prednisone damage. I believe too much protein has been my biggest problem in the past.

    FYI, the part of your article that says blood sugars going down to almost zero is wrong. Even on the strictest of keto diets, your sugar will stay around 70-90mg/dL. You’ll go into a coma if it goes too much lower (like 40′s-50′s). The brain will use ketones but still needs a little sugar in the blood to live but protein or fat conversion is enough for that.

  14. Kris says:

    Wondering how one would follow this high fat diet while remaining a vegetarian?

    • A.B. Dada says:

      Not sure. I think that Peter @ Hyperlipid (Google it) might have some pointers on it.

      More butter, more ghee, more coconut oil, probably other saturated fats I’m forgetting.

  15. Somebody says:

    With such high fat intake, how do you deal with cholesterol/artery clogging/heart disease?

  16. Steven says:

    While I agree with the potential for the ketogenic diet to treat and more importantly, prevent, a wide range of clinical problems we are still a long ways out from truly understanding what is really going on and of how much benefit it will. Also, while on the ketogenic diet your blood levels of glucose are no where near zero. I I ha healthy individual, the blood glucose levels of someone on the ketogenic diet will be around 80-90mg/dL which is considered “normal” for a person on a typical diet after several hours since their last meal. What’s probably more significant is the stability of blood glucose levels and how individuals in the ketogenic diet don’t have significant spikes in blood glucose after eating and/or lower levels if serum insulin.

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