University Study on Low Carb Diet for Cancer Treatment

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History will be made at Duke University. The institutional review board just approved a randomized controlled trial that uses calorie restriction as a treatment for cancer — and measures a cancer-related outcome. Finally, a study about the effects of dietary intervention on the metabolism of cancer cells.

Caloric Restriction as Cancer Treatment

According to Stephen Freedland, MD, from Duke,

In the entire field of cancer research, there have only been a handful of studies of calorie restriction as a cancer treatment.

In the past 10 years there have been increasing interest in the metabolism of cancer cells — and how that can impact dietary interventions.

According to Rainer Klement, MD, a radiation oncologist at the University Hospital of Würzburg in Germany,

The time is definitely ripe to test the various ways of altering cancer patients’ metabolism — be it through physical exercise, ketogenic diets, fasting, or calorie restriction. The combination of these lifestyle interventions with the standards of care seems very promising to me.

Dr. Klement has been studying the role of carbohydrate restriction in the treatment and prevention of cancer.

Sugar Feeds Cancer

In 2011 Dr. Klement and Dr. Kammerer published a comprehensive review of the literature involving dietary carbohydrates and their direct and indirect effect on cancer cells. The study was published in the journal, Nutrition and Metabolism.

They hypothesized that by reducing the amount of dietary carbohydates, one could suppress or delay the emergence of cancer and/or the proliferation of tumor cells already present could be slowed.

The fact is, sugar feeds cancer –many alternative practitioners and nutritionists have known this for years. Dr. Robert Lustig has written and lectured about this as well. Check out his Youtube video that over 3 million people have watched. Carbohydrates cause cancer cells to multiply and grow. The hypothesis that limiting carbohydrates could suppress or slow cancer growth is supported by a lot of laboratory science.

According to Dr. Klement,

…cancer cells thrive on glucose and starve on fats and ketones, which are food-derived energy units that are plentiful in low-carbohydrate diets.

According to Dr. Freedland (colleague of Dr.Klement),

The commonplace advice to avoid dietary fat is not a good recommendation to give cancer patients. They should eat a lot of fat and avoid sugar.

Someone is finally talking sense!

Duke University Study to Restrict Carbohydrates

The Duke study will involve calorie restriction in men with prostate cancer. By calorie restriction they mean cutting down on carbohydrates. The participants will have “failed” primary therapy for prostate cancer, as evidenced by a rising prostate-specific antigen (PSA) score after surgery, and will have experienced disease progression.

There have been no successful treatments for prostate cancer patients who have had surgery and are still progressing. The dietary restriction is a last ditch attempt to slow the rate of cancer growth.

The Duke study has a projected end date of 2016, is being funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Atkins Foundation, which is a philanthropic outgrowth of the famous Atkins diet enterprise. The study will employ an Atkins-like diet, where carbohydrates are severely restricted to less than 20 grams a day.

Dr. Atkins Should be Alive To See This

Dr. Atkins was the first doctor to proposed that carbohydrates, not fats, are at the center of disease. He was writing in the 1970’s and 1980’s and he took a lot of flack from the medical institutions for his statements. He stood up to the nay sayers and put his career on the line.

Most of the low carb diets popular today have their roots in the ground that Dr. Atkins broke. He should be remembered for that.

Other Centers Will Use The Low Carb Model

Clinical trials will open at Thomas Jefferson University in the next few weeks. Early-stage breast cancer patients will undergo caloric restriction concurrent with radiation.

The researchers propose that caloric restriction may amplify the effect of radiation therapy by rendering the cancer cells more susceptible to the treatment to improve outcomes.

Finally a Study Not Funded by Big Pharma

Although the study will be partially funded by the Atkins group I highly doubt that the outcomes will be influenced in any way. Thankfully our government dollars will finally be spent on some real research that involves the power of dietary change to fight disease.

This is one study I would participate in if I had a qualifying disease. What about you? Leave a comment and let me know!


This post is shared at: Real Food Wednesday, Mommy Club, Allergy Free Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Seasonal Celebration, Thank Your Body Thursday, Creative Juice Thursday,Simple Lives Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, Meatless Monday, Hearth  & Soul Hop

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Leave a Comment

  • Crystal February 20, 2013, 7:14 am

    Wow! What great news!!! Thank you for sharing. As I was reading, I was thinking about all of the people in my life who gave me a hard time about doing Atkins years ago and a few of the same people are now doing paleo. Times do change and we are making a difference. I get giddy thinking about the day when you open a recipe that says healthy and it’s paleo friendly (not low fat/high carb). Keep educating, people!!!!

  • Eileen February 20, 2013, 2:31 pm

    I love any study not funded by big pharma!

  • Brenda February 23, 2013, 9:07 pm

    I had a friend that use to follow the Atkins diet (and lots of other diets) and died of cancer at the young age of 41 about 11 years ago. I didn’t know anything about Atkins except it was high in animal protien and low in carbs. I remember we had done research at that time (I think we read this in some cancer book) that a diet high in animal protein was believed to raise your risk for cancer. I remember how she cried when she was convinced that she got cancer because of following Atkins. But knowing what I know now about clean eating and looking back, I have to wonder if it had more to do with the fact it wasn’t because she was just eating more meat but that she was eating more meat from animals that weren’t pasture raised or free of steroids, hormones and still eating processed foods. I know we can never really know why she got cancer but it all just kind of makes you wonder doesn’t it?.

    • Jill February 24, 2013, 9:57 pm

      @ Brenda,
      I guess you just can’t help but wonder why someone gets cancer. I know lots of people who were or are on Atkins and are fine. I think they should most definitely eat ONLY pasture raised beef and dairy.

  • Mali Korsten April 8, 2013, 2:23 pm

    Very interesting! I wonder if this applies to all kinds of cancer (including the likes of Leukemia and cancer of the bone), or whether it only applies to tumors. Either way, it’s great that some actual research is being done on this matter!

    • Jill April 8, 2013, 3:06 pm


    • Jill B. July 3, 2014, 8:20 am

      My beautiful, wonderful sister in law is fighting cancer as we speak, using an integrative approach (conventional plus naturopathic, supportive therapies). Trying to pin down the best diet for her has been maddening. Her own research has revealed that most radical remission type patients ended up going vegan or vegetarian with lots of juicing, but that is definitely NOT ketogenic, though I can see where that approach is very detoxifying, plus high in plant flavonoids, antioxidants, and other cancer fighting elements. We have read about ketogenic diets as well, though there seems to be an opinion among some cancer researchers that tumor based cancers (which she has) respond better to vegetarian approaches, but that blood based cancers respond better to a ketogenic approach. One of the issues chemo patients tend to have (and she is no exception) is chemo-induced anemia. Meat and animal foods have been critical to her for keeping up her strength and red blood cell count. I can’t imagine how much weaker she would be if she dramatically lowered her protein intake too. Her naturopath has her on a low-inflammatory Mediterranean type diet, as organic as possible, with no nightshades, dairy, wheat or sugar, which is neither ketogenic or vegetarian. I pray that this study and more like it helps provide more answers!

      • Jill July 3, 2014, 4:19 pm

        HI Jill B.
        I wish her the best. Sometimes even with research, it has to be an individual approach.

      • martin gugino October 21, 2016, 9:00 pm

        I understand that Dr Atkins tied his diet on cancer patients (had a cancer ward) but gave up. That does not mean that it is not a good diet for cancer patients. I think it is.

  • Stephania May 1, 2013, 6:41 pm

    One needs to understand that all diet plans are not effective.
    People never had a clear understanding of carbohydrates.
    His every day caloric burn itself is not even reaching this

  • Joe August 12, 2013, 1:27 pm

    If cancer cells thrive on glucose and starve on fats and ketones; then it stands to reason that a zero carb diet is THE cure for all forms of cancer. I’ve stated this to several different doctors and others in the medical field and no one has been able to explain to me why it’s not true.
    If anyone can give me a reason as to why the statement is not true, I’ll shut up and be quiet.

    • Allen Cooke July 5, 2014, 11:11 pm

      Even if you consume no carbs your liver will produce glucose. The brain requires it for fuel. So there will never be a state where there is no glucose circulating to make the tumor die off from starvation.

      • Mel November 26, 2014, 11:04 am

        Sorry, but you are wrong. Cancer is a RESPONSE to a high glucose environment in the body. Recent studies on low carb or no carb diets in cancer patients have proven you wrong. Which big pharma do you work for, by the way?

        • martin gugino October 21, 2016, 9:02 pm

          Probably the same one you work for but in a different building.

    • Mel November 26, 2014, 11:02 am

      The fact is, it IS true. Cancers of all types thrive on glucose. Starve the cancer of it’s main fuel, and you kill the cancer. This same idea is what the newest cure for cancer is based on–3 bromopyruvate–which causes the cell to convert from glycolysis for it’s energy, back to oxidative phosphorylation. Cancer rates in the US are increasing because we are increasing the amounts of carbs in our diets. Atkins was absolutely right.

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  • Andrew October 6, 2016, 8:05 pm

    I have leukemia but I have been low carb for many years.

  • martin gugino October 21, 2016, 8:57 pm

    oh yes.
    Do you have a copy of the diet, or, really, can I get one?