Low Carb Diet Decreases Cancer Risk

June 21, 2011 · 14 comments

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cancer, low carb diet

Recently, a study was published in the journal, Cancer Research which indicates that eating a low carbohydrate, high protein diet reduces the risk of cancer and slows the growth of tumors. In the developed world, one in three people will develop cancer in their lifetime. One in three.

Investigations conducted at the British Columbia Cancer Research Center found that mice that ate a diet composed of 15 percent carbohydrates, 58 percent protein and 26 percent fat had slower tumor cell growth than mice that ate a diet composed of 55 percent carbohydrates, 23 percent protein and 22 percent fat (a more typical Western diet).

While the study involved mice, researchers said the biological findings are significant enough to be applied to humans.

This shows that something as simple as a change in diet (my italics) can have an impact on cancer risk,” said study researcher Gerald Krystal, Ph.D., a scientist at the British Columbia Cancer Research Center.

The research also involved comparing two groups of mice that were at high risk for breast cancer. One group was on the low carb diet and the other was on the typical Western diet.

Not surprisingly, as early as the first year of life, nearly 50% of the mice on the Western diet developed breast cancer. In contrast, none of the mice on the low carb diet exhibited breast cancer.

Additionally, 70% of the mice in the Western diet group died from cancer and only one survived a normal lifespan of two years. In contrast, only 30% of the low carb diet mice developed cancer and more than 50% either reached the two year mark or even went beyond it.

According to the scientists there are three reasons for this outcome:

  1. Tumor cells are fueled by glucose and by decreasing the number of carbs eaten, there is a decrease in the amount of glucose available to feed the tumors.
  2. Every time carbohydrates are eaten, insulin rises. Insulin has been shown to promote the growth of tumors.
  3. A low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet has the potential to both boost the ability of the immune system to kill cancer cells and prevent obesity, which leads to chronic inflammation and cancer.

Sugar and it’s relationship to cancer is an issue that was addressed in my previous post Sinister Deception: Sugar/Cancer Link.

In his YouTube video “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”, Robert Lustig makes the argument that sugar is as poisonous to health as cigarettes and alcohol.

A 2007 report published by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer research entitled, “Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer,” concludes that there is a link between the western diet and cancer and the common denominator is insulin resistance.

Sugar feeds cancer. Nutritionists have been saying that for years backed by scientific proof. One researcher providing this proof is Graig Thompson who is now the president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. In an interview with Gary Taubes that was presented in The New York Times Magazine article called “Is Sugar Toxic?”, Thompson explains that the fuel for cancer is blood sugar.

Insulin supplies cancer cells with the nutrients (sugar) and signals to grow and multiply. Some cancers develop mutations that increases the influence of insulin on the cell, while other cells simply take advantage of the elevated levels of insulin present in the body.

Thompson believes that cell mutations occur when insulin drives cells to take up and metabolize sugar. These mutations turn precancerous cells into malignant tumors.

There is a clear relationship between cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and sugar.

Cancer Research editor-in-chief George Prendergast, Ph.D., CEO of the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research states

Many cancer patients are interested in making changes in areas that they can control, and this study definitely lends credence to the idea that a change in diet can be beneficial.

At long last, conventional medicine can see via research studies that the typical Western diet is a major factor in driving the epidemics of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity that we face today.  They are all related to the “…displacing foods of modern commerce…” As Dr. Weston Price so wisely stated.

Many Real Food diets involve low carbohydrates, whether it is Paleo, Primal, SCD, GAPS, etc. Many are completely grain free.  There has been plenty of anecdotal evidence that grain-free, low carb diets positively affect health problems. Now there is more “scientific” evidence which supports what people have been reporting for years…” that something as simple as change in diet can have an impact on cancer risk.”

Photo Credit: GDS Graphics

This post is linked to: Real Food Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Healthy 2DAy Wednesday, Foodie Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Turning the Table Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Simple Lives Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, Friday Food. Sugar-Free Sunday, Monday Mania, Mangia Monday, Mouthwatering Monday, Weekend Carnival, Traditional Tuesday

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shu Han June 23, 2011 at 5:20 pm

I really like your blog but this is one time where I have to disagree. I don’t think any food group should be blamed. I think that many of us, while on our journey towards a healthier lifetstyle and diet, end up forgetting about the essence of food and life. We end up looking at food in terms of its nutritional breakdown and over analyse the parts instead of approaching food as a whole.
http://mummyicancook.blogspot.com/2011/06/when-in-rome-eat-as-romans-eat.html

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2 Lindsey Sides June 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm

How did this comment make the front? It’s as if the person who commented did not even look into it! The science behind this theory is fantastic. It all adds up. She should read up sooner rather than later for her own health!

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3 Jill June 23, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Hi Shu Han,
I’m glad you commented your thoughts whether you agree or not. It would be nice to approach food as a whole as you state, but in this culture, processed carbohydrates are the main staple for many people and it is making them sick. We have to look at the parts to see where we are in error.

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4 Shu Han June 24, 2011 at 6:10 am

Thank you jill (: Believe me, I really am not trying to put your post down, I love your blog and the information you share! Lindsey, I did read the post, I read more than just this post, I’ve been reading a lot from other blogs too. I used to be a low carber, and it worked really well for me at first, but then as with all kinds of restrictions (be it carbs or fat or protein, I’m not the extreme opposite who believes in vegetarianism too) your body starts to respond adversely. One again, thanks for the post and let’s continue to search for the right way to health (:
http://180degreehealth.blogspot.com/2010/02/is-low-carb-diet-counterproductive.html

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5 Shu Han June 24, 2011 at 6:11 am

that link that i just posted above is from a researcher called matt stone who has experimented with many diets and presents a lot of research on health in general. a good read, whether or not you agree with his current stance (:

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6 Jill June 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Hi Shu Han,
Thanks for explaining yourself — personal experience is always the best way to know what is best for yourself. We are all different biochemically and with different medical histories — there is no one silver bullet for everyone. Thanks for the link — I will look into it!

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7 Miz Helen June 24, 2011 at 10:16 am

Hi Jill,
Thanks for bringing us this information. Very good post! Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday, I look forward to seeing you again soon!
Miz Helen

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8 Jill June 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Hi Miz Helen.
Thanks for your comments!

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9 Nicole Feliciano June 24, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I’m always eager to hear the latest research. We’re always trying to incorporate the latest findings in out diets. Thanks so much for stopping by Momtrends Friday Food (http://www.momtrends.com/2011/06/friday-food-farmers-classic-pickle-event/) and adding this post. Have a great weekend.

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10 Jill June 24, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Hi Nicole,
Thanks for your comments!

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11 Kelli June 27, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Great post! Its about time that the medical establishment acknowledges the true cause of cancer (along with chemical toxins in the environment). I’m glad their veering away from the tired out excuse called genetics.

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12 Jill June 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Hi Kelli,
Thanks for your comments. Genetics is always a comfortable fallback and/or excuse for what is really going on.

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13 Kris Johnson November 18, 2012 at 11:54 pm

This is interesting research, but of limited application, since it was just on mice. It would be more interesting to see what happened if the fat had been increased by the substitution of natural animal fats for the reduction in refined carbs, leaving the protein the same. I suspect the long term results would be more satisfactory, and more realistic than suggesting everyone eat a high protein diet, which can create its own problem. No one seems to want to do research using a whole foods, reduced carb, higher fat diet. Modern polyunsaturated oils and refined carbs both contribute to problems like cancer.

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14 Jill November 19, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Hi Kris,
Yes, most researchers are still afraid of animal fat and it will be years before they make the distinction between factory farm animals fat and fat from pastured animals. Too bad. Many people would benefit from that kind of research.

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