The link between diet and cancer is both an interesting and controversial topic. Although some cancers have been found to have hereditary traits, this is not the case for most cancers in which the cause is a mystery, and I do not think that most people consider the full effect that their diet may be having.
Our diet is everything that we sustain ourselves on, and it would make sense that the wrong (processed) foods could potentially lead to an increased risk of cancer. However, I am more interested in the diet’s potential to cure cancer. But more on this soon.
For a long time now I have been interested in the potential for the diet to produce cancer within the body. With recent events such as wellness blogger Belle Gibson in Australia turning out to be a fraud wellness medicine is not receiving the best rep. Many people following in the footsteps of Belle have been left devastated after turning to both convention and unconventional treatments, such as upping their fruit and vegetable intake (good), removing meat from their diet (good and bad) and performing coffee enemas (ew) to cure their cancer, with many of their curing properties being unfounded.
To most people the concept of eating right to prevent disease seems to make sense. We must eat 5 serves of veg and 2 serves of fruit, a good amount of whole grains, a few serves of dairy and limited sweets in combination with 30 minutes of cardio a day and we’ll be fine, right?
Uh, well, not really.
Here’s the thing.
I am convinced diet and cancer are related. But it’s not necessarily what you put it your body that matters, but rather what you don’t.
I don’t say this lightly, and I’m not claiming to have cured my own cancer with my diet (I’ve never been diagnosed with cancer). However, I am relying on scientific research, much of which is not widely advertised by the media due to a few reasons, which I’ll get to.
I want to add that I am not instructing you to give up conventional medicine; that is by no means wise and modern medicine has made some amazing strides particularly over the last few decades. If anything, use this information in combination with your treatment because I think it is important.
It is also important to remember that no one is to blame in cancer, especially children. Cancer really is a freak mutation, but we have more control than you may think.
What we do know
I think it is important to note what is already acknowledged, and that is that there is a clear link between our lifestyle choices and cancer risk. The link between lifestyle and cancer is an area that is no longer up for debate among experts. There is a clear correlation between lifestyle factors and cancer.
For example, we know that smokers have a higher chance of contracting lung cancer than non-smokers. We know that tanning solarium users have a greater risk of melanoma. We know that obesity can cause a myriad of problems, with cancer being just one of these.
I think it is important to remember that cancer involves cell mutation in the body. The facts above show a genesis for why cancer is developed. So why, then, do we assume that some cancers do not have a genesis and that it is simply related to bad luck?
It is also worth mentioning that chemotherapy success rates are incredibly low. A study in Australia showed that cytotoxic chemotherapy resulted in only a 2.3% 5 year survival rate. Although the overall 5 year survival rate for all cancers was 60%, clearly those that require harsher treatment result in incredibly low survival rates. A change is needed.
Cancer and diet is not yet given the link that it deserves, and this comes down to a few reasons.
To make a conclusion about something, especially something as serious as a link between diet and cancer, we need research. Scientific research. And lots of it. It is not enough to have a few studies showing a link between the two, and this is where it gets tricky.
Most people do not live their life following a single diet and there are so many other factors playing a role, such as their lifestyle choices, that finding a group to study and make observations on is inherently difficult for studies relating to diet.
It is important to note that cancer is not inherited. A gene that can lead to the development of cancer is what can be inherited, and for most people this does not guarantee that cancer will develop.
There are likely to be many genes that have the potential to cause cancer, most of which are yet to be discovered and researched. The research required for this is extensive, and it is easy to look at facts and say that because you have not inherited a cancer producing gene, your risk of contracting cancer is nil. Consistently, it is found that this is not the case.
There are two major groups that fund cancer research and advertise what is healthy to eat. These are governments and pharmaceutical companies.
The major pharmaceutical companies in the world rule when it comes to medical research. They are the major source of funds when it comes to testing to treat a condition. This is great for some things that require it, but not so great for cancer. Pharmaceutical companies are motivated to find a product that they can market, mass produce and sell to cure a condition, and thus they are motivated by profit. This is a major flaw in their design.
And then there are governments. Luckily, they do have our backs, somewhat. However, in protecting our interests they are motivated to help our farmers by endorsing things such as the eating of absolutely ridiculous amounts of grains and dairy (both of which can be hazardous to your health).
In protecting the interests of our farmers and economy, they also sacrifice some really important aspects surrounding our health.
The major culprits
Food is a sticky topic when it comes to cancer production as it is something so essential to our lives, and thus also very emotional. It is easy to say that something like a Big Mac has trans fats that can contribute to disease, but to dismiss a nutrient rich piece of wholemeal toast would send some people into a frenzy. This is because we are told what is healthy, and often this is wholemeal grains.
It is important to keep in mind though that humans have only been eating grains for around 10,000 years, and the problem is not what grains contain, but rather the way they react in our body. For example, a lemon outside the body is acid, but inside our body it is alkaline. Just because on the surface grains are healthy, does not mean within our body the same is true.
The reason I say that is this.
We each witness government propaganda to eat our grains and drink our milk, however these things can affect our body negatively.
The three major things wrong with our diet are the consumption of sugar, wheat and dairy.
I do not think I have to convince anyone that sugar is bad for us. We have known this for a long time, and we have also recognized its contribution to weight gain which in itself is linked to the development of cancer.
The two main problems with sugar is are that 1. it is addictive, and 2. it is basically just an unnecessarily concentrated dose of glucose and fructose that the body is not designed to handle. I will discuss below why this is hazardous.
Studies that focus on the effect of grains focus on the benefit of whole grains over processed. Obviously, by consuming whole grains you are benefiting from the added nutrients of the bran and therefore are more likely to be nutritionally balanced, however grains have problems of their own. The human body finds grains difficult to process.
Many grains also contain two sticky substances, gluten and lectin. The affect of these two proteins is to bind food together, however this affect is also happening in your gut. Nice.
It is important to note that I do not believe grains (expect wheat) are the real problem, but rather the problem of how our digestive system deals with them. The main problem is how grains behave in our digestive system, which is what is linked to contributing with the development of bowel and stomach cancers.
Also note, that grains turn to glucose in the body, which I will discuss further below.
Again, a relatively new addition in the human diet and one that we did not evolve into eating is dairy. Although we are raised on milk from infancy, we lose the ability to digest lactose at around 2 years old, although in the western diet we force ourselves to ingest dairy leading to a tolerance. However, 75% of the world still remains lactose intolerant.
In relation to cancer, dairy contains the IGF-1 hormone which has been shown to be linked to cancer growth.
Not to mention, cows are kept pregnant to produce milk and pumped full of reproductive hormones.
You may have also heard the hype about casein, being a beneficial protein that is added to protein powder for better ‘gainz.’ Yeah, cancer gains.
Furthermore, science has found calcium is not as essential for bone health as once thought and in fact vitamin D is the essential component in bone health.
Also, if you just take a look at a cow you may wonder what keeps their bones so strong and healthy, well it ain’t because they’re suckling away at each others teets… It’s got something to do with that green stuff they’re eating, you know… Grass….
You can, and SHOULD be eating enough green vegetables to get your daily calcium requirements (which are lower than the FDA would have you believe) with added calcium potentially creating more problems in itself.
Which diet is best for combating/preventing cancer?
I condone any diet that cuts out the above three perpetrators, sugar, grains and dairy. However, I think it’s important to look beyond the potential for food in the diet to cause cancer and rather its potential to cure it. Is it possible? I think it is.
The key to stopping the growth of cancer cells is eliminating carbs.
If you understand the fundamentals of the cells in the body then you will know that they require blood sugar, or glucose, for energy. This process is the same in the growth of cancer cells, which feeds on glucose to grow. This is the inherent problem for humans because our bodies run on glucose. However, what if there was another way to convert food to energy that didn’t involve glucose. Well… There is.
Enter: Ketone bodies. 😀
When the body is either starved or deprived of carbohydrates, it enters into a state of ketosis whereby fat (either eaten or body fat) is converted directly to energy.
The major difference between using glucose and ketone bodies is that cancer can not grow with ketone bodies. Cancer cells can only grow in the presence of glucose.
In fact, this is how we have lived for thousands of years. It is likely that our primate ancestors were in a state of ketosis most of the time due to this being before the agricultural revolution, food shortages and a diet of mostly meat and other fats/proteins (generally around 80% fat, 10% protein and 10% carbs such as fruit and vegetables).
It is easy to say that one thing causes another, and sure, it looks great on paper. This is what governments love to do to let us know they have our best intentions at hand. However, I have better intentions. Listen to me. 🙂 Lets now look at some of the few case studies that do exist.
Also note that there are more studies out there, and the great thing to note is that many of these are observational case studies of traditional societies, where the variables have not been manipulated (something that can’t be said for modern cancer research).
Case of the Inuits
The Alaskan Inuit tribes living traditionally as hunter-gatherers in North America are an interesting case. Observed early in the 1900’s, it was found that the Inuit people lived on foods almost exclusively containing fats and proteins, such as fish, walrus and other meats, with low levels of plant material in their diet and no grains. They therefore took in around 15-20% carbohydrates.
Although they did not eat an exclusively ketogenic diet, they were still found the be virtually cancer free. This was until the introduction of refined sugar, wheat and dairy into their diet. How surprising! You can read about this in Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s book, which is a great reference to read.
Unfortunately, most modern Inuits do not live traditionally and meat that they do eat is often laced with the same chemicals as we are fed in our diet. This leads many to come to the conclusion that in fact the Inuits’ diets are less than perfect, however this must be put down to the modern world interfering with theirs.
Case of the invincible mice
Mice??? But mice are not humans! You’re right. However, we use them for almost all studies to generalize on humans with their genome having 95% similarity with our own.
This study involved mice who were predisposed to developing breast cancer. The control group was fed their normal, high carbohydrate diet,with carbohydrates making up 55%, and the experimental group was fed a low carbohydrate diet, around 15%. The results?
7 out of the 1o mice eating 55% carbohydrates died with a tumor, whereas only 3 out of 11 mice eating a diet of 15% carbohydrates died with a tumor. This study also concluded that elevated blood glucose levels was a problem for tumors.
This was an interesting case study, and I recommend you read the full report here.
Case of the cured woman
Another case study involved a woman who was placed on a carbohydrate rate diet first, followed by a diet high in fat over a period of 10 weeks each diet. During the carbohydrate diet, her cancer grew in size and the cancer cells were illuminated on an MRI scan showing growth.
However, once placed on the high fat diet, the woman’s cancer no longer grew or was visible on an MRI scan.
You can also read more here about a two groups of women, one with high carbohydrates and one with high fat where the high carbohydrates contributed to cancer and high fat did not.
What does this mean?
Very clearly, problems can develop from an excessive consumption of carbohydrates for humans, including cancer, and a potential to prevent/cure cancer is a ketogenic diet.
Not only do carbohydrates increase the likelihood of cancer growth, but it has also been shown to be the most contributing factor to weight gain too, which as we know can cause problems in itself.
Am I telling you to give up carbs?
If you have cancer, I would definitely be interested in what effect eradicating all carbohydrates from your diet has on your cancer. With the evidence above its clear that there is a link between cancer and glucose, and it would make sense to eradicate it from your diet.
Yes, I know fruit and vegetable are carbohydrates and they are very good for us. I acknowledge this and would never recommend you give them up. Reduce your intake of these and allow your body to transition into, and adapt to, a state of ketosis. Once this has happened you can introduce more carbohydrates. Once you have adapted, maybe a week or two, you can gladly reintroduce fruit and veg into your diet keeping your carb count under 40-50g a day to stay in a ketogenic state.
However, if you want to avoid cancer, I would at least recommend intermittent fasting which can bring on ketosis in combination with what is simply right for you. Veganism, vegetarianism, paleo, ketogenic… They each have their advantages and they affect people differently.
And on that note, a ketogenic diet is possible as a vegan by increasing your intake of good quality fats, and in fact you have plenty of options. How does avocado and ‘zucchini pasta’ with olive oil and crushed walnuts sound? I’m drooling. I will be sure to write a guide for vegans following a ketogenic diet soon.
Whatever you choose to eat and however you choose to live your life is up to you. The views expresses here are my own. The most important thing is to do what is right for you. This is a developing field and it will be interesting to see how it progresses in the future.
Have you tried this diet? Has it worked for you? Let me know in the comments below.
Disclaimer: I do not have any medical training and am not telling people how to treat cancer. This article was based on my own views and should not be used as a substitute for your doctors advice.As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.