Cancer, Carbohydrates, and Diet

Cancer, Carbohydrates, and Diet

Lincoln Disc and Nutrition Center

March 18, 2013 – Cancer continues to be a hot topic in health and most likely will always be until we can substantially decrease its occurrence. Whatever strides toward the treatment of cancer that conventional medicine has made, solid research continues to indicate that diet plays an important-even crucial role– in the occurrence and treatment of cancer. Two recent articles have demonstrated this fact and this newsletter will be based on these articles:

Dietary intakes of carbohydrates in relation to prostate cancer risk: A prospective study in the Malmo Diet and Cancer cohort. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. December 2012; Vol. 96; No. 6; pp. 1409-18. 

Is There a Role for Carbohydrate Restriction in the Treatment and Prevention of Cancer? Nutrition and Metabolism. October 2011;8(75). 

The risk of prostate cancer elevates with the consumption of low-fiber cereals, cake, biscuits, rice, and pasta. Compared with those who do not consume any sugar sweetened beverages to those who have a high intake, the risk of prostate cancer rises by 38%. Foods and beverages which elevate the hormone insulin the greatest seem to pose the most risk for prostate cancer.   Currently the most predictive test for prostate cancer is Insulin growth factor-1–a test which I can do in my office and can predict prostate cancer up to seven years ahead of when the disease actually manifests.[Which gives you time to correct the underlying issues causing the dysfunction.]  Based on the current scientific literature, it is a much better test than the PSA.

Over the last years, 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. CHOs or glucose can have direct and indirect effects on tumor cell proliferation:

1) Contrary to normal cells, malignant cells depend on steady sugar availability in the blood for their energy and biomass generating demands.

2) High insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 levels resulting from chronic ingestion of carbohydrate-rich Western diet meals, can directly promote tumor cell growth.

3) A multitude of models have shown anti-tumor properties of very low carbohydrate diets. Many cancer patients have altered glucose metabolism characterized by insulin resistance, and may profit from an increased protein and fat intake.

An increase in the consumption of easily digestible refined carbohydrates producing easily and prolonged elevated blood sugar leads to diseases of our civilization that are strongly associated with the so-called Western way of life. [There is also compelling evidence for the beneficial roles of regular physical activity and sufficient vitamin D in the prevention and treatment of cancer.]

High CHO intake, in particular in the form of sugar and other high GI foods, has been linked to modern diseases like metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration and gout. Lowering the amount of carbohydrates (CHOs) in the diet can have direct beneficial effects on the prevention and treatment of malignant diseases. It has been known for nearly a century that there exists an intimate connection between CHOs and cancer:

* In those who developed cancer, glucose secretion in the urine disappears [suggesting the glucose is feeding the cancer cells].

* Cultured cancer tissue consumes much higher glucose than healthy tissue.

Hyperglycemia delivers more glucose to tumor cells and is a predictor of poor survival in patients with various cancers. Hyperglycemia is an increased risk for developing cancer of the pancreas, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, stomach and prostate. Hyperglycemia activates monocytes and macrophages (cells associated with the immune system) to produce inflammatory chemicals that play an important role also for the progression of cancer. In one study, hyperglycemia was found in 70 out of 70 cancer patients.

The typical Western diet consists of three meals a day (plus the occasional CHO-rich snacks and drinks), so that insulin levels are elevated most of the day, and insulin stimulates the release of the pro-inflammatory chemicals. A diet which repeatedly elevates blood glucose levels provides additional growth stimuli for cancer cells.

In colorectal, prostate, and early stage breast cancer patients, high insulin levels have been associated with poor prognosis. These findings again underline the importance of controlling blood sugar and hence insulin levels in cancer patients. Dietary restriction and/or a reduced carbohydrate intake are straightforward strategies to achieve this goal. Both diabetes and cancer share a common pathophysiological state: chronic inflammation and insulin resistance.

A ketogenic diet (high fat, low carbohydrate diet) supplies ketone bodies that can be used to make energy without using either glucose or insulin. The typical ketogenic diet is 80% calories from fat, 10% from protein and 10% from CHO. It has been successfully used to treat epilepsy and adiposity. The best source of ketone bodies is from foods like coconut oil which produce medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), that are metabolized to yield high amounts of ketone bodies, thus reducing insulin and reducing tumor growth.

The authors present evidence that the low CHO ketogenic diet or caloric restricted diet worked best on tumor growth suppression if it began prior to the start of the cancer. [This suggests that we should most of us should be on a low carbohydrate diet] A diet rich in corn oil might stimulate prostate cancer growth to a greater extent than one rich in saturated fat.

Prevention of cancer is either the inhibition of carcinogenesis or the sufficient delay of tumor growth, so that it remains undetected and asymptomatic during a subject’s lifespan. There is evidence that even modest CHO restriction may influence both of these mechanisms positively.

I think that you probably get the idea. Restricting refined carbohydrates is very positive for your health-especially for the prevention and spread of cancer. I have always eaten a high fat diet with an emphasis on nuts, butter, and coconut oil. I recommend a similar diet to most people as it is great for controlling blood sugar, and staying lean.

If you have any questions regarding your health please give Kris a call at 402-488-2220 and she will be glad to schedule you for a consult.


Paul Firnhaber

Lincoln Disc and Nutrition Center


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: