Cancer is a genetic disease because we can inherit mutations associated with increased cancer risk, but most of these mutations are in fact linked to disruptions in the way a cancer cell is able to use energy to survive. Cancer causing mutations are closely linked to what is known as ‘mitochondrial disfunction’. Mitochondria are the energy-producing organelles of a cell. Cancer cells are unable to use the preferred way mitochondria create energy through fats and proteins, and they must revert to a primitive pathway of fermenting sugar to survive.test
In 1931, Dr. Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize for Physiology for his discovery that cancer cells have a fundamentally different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells. This is how Otto Warburg summarised his findings: “Cancer, above all other diseases, has countless secondary causes. But, even for cancer, there is only one prime cause. Summarized in a few words, the prime cause of cancer is the replacement of the respiration of oxygen in normal body cells, by a fermentation of sugar. All normal body cells meet their energy needs by respiration of oxygen, whereas cancer cells meet their energy needs in great part by fermentation … Oxygen gas, the donor of energy in plants and animals is dethroned in the cancer cells and replaced by an energy yielding reaction of the lowest living forms, namely, the fermentation of glucose’. Read more here.
A cell can produce energy in two ways: aerobically efficient in the mitochondria, or anaerobically inefficient in the cytoplasm—the latter of which generates lactic acid as a toxic by product of sugar fermentation. Warburg discovered that in the presence of oxygen, cancer cells overproduce lactic acid. This is known as The Warburg Effect.
To reverse cancer, he advised disrupting the energy production cycle feeding a tumour, and this would effectively starve it into remission. He was never able to conclusively prove this, and his theories were abandoned when researchers turned their attention to a possible link between gene mutations and cancer, following Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA in 1953.
In May this year, the New York Times published a long, detailed article about the history of modern cancer research, including Warburg’s theories on cancer.
In 2006, the Cancer Genome Atlas project, which was designed to identify all the mutations thought to be causative for cancer, came to an astonishing conclusion—that genetic mutations are so random that it is virtually impossible to correlate a genetic origin to cancer. Some cancerous tumours even have no mutations at all.
Rather than offering the conclusive evidence needed to put an end to cancer, the Cancer Genome Atlas project revealed something was clearly missing from the equation. With time, researchers began pondering whether cancer development might in fact hinge on Warburg’s theory on energy metabolism. In recent years, most scientists have come to realize that it is not the genetic defects that cause cancer, rather it is mitochondrial damage which create compounds called “reactive oxygen species” which damage DNA in the first place, and this in fact triggers genetic mutations.
Near the end of his life, Warburg grew obsessed with his diet. He believed that most cancer was preventable and thought that agricultural plant-based foods were the modern link to tumours, because they promoted anaerobic respiration.
The revival of research into the Warburg Effect has been aimed at finding a way to slow, or even stop, tumours by disrupting a cancer cell’s ability to create energy in order to divide, and thus starve cancer cells. The Warburg revival has allowed researchers to develop the hypothesis that carbohydrate-heavy diets that cause permanently elevated levels of the hormone insulin over time, are driving cells into the Warburg effect and promoting cancer.
To starve cancer cells involves reducing the volume of carbohydrate foods in your diet and increasing the volume of healthy fats. It’s important to remember that cancer cells lack the metabolic flexibility to burn fat and this is why a healthy high-fat diet now appears to be such an effective anti-cancer strategy. When you switch from burning glucose as your primary fuel to burning fat for fuel, cancer cells really have to struggle to stay alive. At the same time, healthy cells are given an ideal and preferred fuel, which lowers oxidative damage and optimists mitochondrial function. The sum effect is that healthy cells begin to thrive while cancer cells are starved.
From my clinic case studies, the best results I have found that using a diet of 60 to 70 percent healthy fat, 20 percent good proteins and 10 percent complex carbohydrates is an ideal anti-cancer diet. The key is to eat healthy proteins and healthy fats—saturated fats rather than monounsaturated fats. Avoid all processed and bottled oils except third-party-certified olive oils (as the vast majority are adulterated with polyunsaturated vegetable oils). There is a limit to how much protein your body can actually use, and eating more than your body requires for repair and growth can stress the body’s organs including the liver and kidneys. When it comes to carbohydrates, there are the fibre-rich low-net varieties, and the non-fibre carbohydrates such as sugar, fruit juices and all types of processed grains. Ideally, you want the fibre-rich carbohydates. We cannot digest plant fibre, which means it does not affect our blood sugar.
The following foods support an ideal anti-cancer diet:
Olives and olive oil
Lard, tallow or ghee
Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk.
Nuts such as macadamia and seeds such as sesame, cumin, and pumpkin.
Organic-pastured eggs
Grass-fed free-range derived meats, fish, poultry.
Cheeses (if no allergy response)
Root vegetables and tubers.
One of the reasons why a high-fat, moderate protein, low-net carbohydrate diet works so well as an anti-cancer diet is because it drives inflammation down to almost nothing and allows healing.
As Max Planck (Nobel Prize 1918 in Physics) so rightly said, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die.”
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