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.