Cancer and A Low Carb Diet: A Link

Low Carb Paleo Diet and Cancer

A good friend of mine recently received news of one of her close family member’s diagnosis with Stage 5 kidney disease, requiring immediate dialysis treatment.  The relative was in her mid-40s, a mother and wife, with no history of diabetes.

My friend was in shock and in search of answers, asked me if there was a diet that her sister should be on now that she’s diagnosed with actual kidney disease.  I recommended that she consult with her doctor regarding treatments and dietary options.

However, in light of research that noted positive correlation between a high fat diet/low carb diet and reduction of various ailments and conditions, like epilepsy, I did some preliminary investigation myself.

A large-scale study, titled “Is there a role for carbohydrate restriction in the treatment and prevention of cancer?”, conducted by two German researchers from the University Hospital of Wurzbug and subsequently published in the academic Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism delves into the topic in great depth.

Their central hypothesis is “…evidence has accumulated suggesting that by systematically reducing the amount of dietary carbohydrates (CHOs) one could suppress, or at least delay, the emergence of cancer, and that proliferation of already existing tumor cells could be slowed down. This hypothesis is supported by the association between modern chronic diseases like the metabolic syndrome and the risk of developing or dying from cancer.”

They reference the fact that cancer FEEDS upon glucose and shockingly, this has been known since the 1920s.

“…there exists an intimate connection between CHOs and cancer has been known since the seminal studies performed by different physiologists in the 1920s.”

What happens is that the mitochondria of cancer cells exclusively metabolize glucose only. Not only that but a high carb diet feeds tumours and cancer cells.

High insulin levels, which occur on a high carb diet, promotes the growth of tumours. Chronically elevated glucose levels feed tumors and cancer cells.  Elevated insulin levels also promote the growth of tumors.

Furthermore, cancer patients tend to develop insulin resistance, like diabetics, which worsens their health when they’re on a high carb diet. Not only that, but high levels of glucose, which derives from a high carb (lots of grains), also increase inflammation levels that are known to negatively impact all sorts of diseases, including cancer.

There are two ways to inhibit the growth of cancer cells known to feed upon glucose:

1.) Restrict calories, i.e. don’t eat too much.  This method of eating will lower glucose and insulin levels and work against the proliferation of glucose loving cancer cells.

However, as anyone who has tried restricting calories while eating a Standard American Diet know, this is the road to failure.  This type of dieting is what gives credence to the “95% of diets fail” mantra. Not only that, but for cancer patients, calorie restriction will prevent them of nutrients that they especially need during one of the most stressful times of their life.  Furthermore, so many patients lose weight undergoing treatment that this option is not viable for them.

2.) Restrict carbohydrates, i.e. eliminate refined carbohydrates and grains from diet.  This method of eating actually mimics the results of a restricted calorie diet as it greatly lowers glucose and insulin levels, only without making the patient hungry and without depriving them of essential calories and nutrients.

In addition to diet, the study also acknowledges other factors that might contribute to cancer including: “regular physical activity, sun exposure, sufficient sleep, low chronic stress and the lack of foods that would also not have been available to our pre-neolithic ancestors.” Sun exposure, which affects Vitamin D levels, is quite important and However, the bulk of the study was focused on diet and it is apparent that diet forms a disproportionate impact on the development of cancer. Even an environmental factor like sun exposure, is linked to diet since eating a high carb/high grain diet can interfere with vitamin D absorption.

More research is being done into the linkages between modern diseases and modern diets and more and more, it looks like what we eat has a huge impact on our long-term health. An evolutionary way of eating, which is focused on moving away from processed and refined carbohydrates (grains, flour, legumes, etc) and towards a high fat/moderate protein diet might be a key piece in the fight of diseases like cancer.

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