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What is a Ketone Really? My Favorite Ketosis Benefits

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What is a Ketone Really? My Favorite Ketosis Benefits

I hear this all the time. What is a ketone?

I normally reply by asking if they have heard the word ‘ketosis?’ This weird word has been creeping into the airwaves. As an internal medicine doctor, I last heard this odd term back in medical school. While covering the ICU, a patient with Type 1 diabetes injected the wrong amount of insulin over and over until he slipped into in a coma.

Yep, that’s the last time I heard the word ketosis.

The first time the word pinged my long-term memory, naturally, my first thoughts around ketosis linked back to that very sick patient.

So why am I hearing this word again?

Has there been some sort of earth-shattering breakthrough?

Embarrassingly, this excitement about ketosis isn’t due to any new scientific discovery. This ‘newfound’ enthusiasm for what a ketosis and anything ketosis-related involves renewed media interest. Sadly, this otherwise old information still remains obscure and seems ‘exotic’ to nearly every doctor I know.

Brace yourself for a massive sea change in how your doctor and the whole medical community will be talking to patients about cancer, weight, health, heart disease and aging brains. This tidal wave of information will crash upon the army of frustrated patients that are fed up with overpriced doctor visit where patients leave the offices with too many pills and not enough education.

My husband is not a doctor. Twenty years of marriage to a physician specializing in internal medicine granted him a front row seat to all sorts of healthcare-related stories. He has seen the greatest benefits in the healthcare industry, as well as its ugliest traits.

He has seen the flawed thinking behind doctors over using the latest and greatest procedures to cut out a problem instead of teaching patients the roots of their issues. For years, he told friends if you have an enemy that you want dead, just find out what day he is seeing his doctor.

Accuse the doctor of being lazy right before your rival’s appointment. Most doctors will overreach with more tests and procedures compensating for that insult. Those extra tests and procedures would be the beginning of the end for your enemy. How come? The resulting barrage of tests and procedures, paired with insufficient wisdom and patient insight, can easily become a one-way street to worse health.

Future Approach of Doctors

The future approach I see doctors taking in helping patients mirrors the holistic approach represented in this recent revival of ketosis literature. Personally and professionally most medical practitioners haven’t thought, taught people what a ketone is or recommended ketosis. A significant percentage of medical professionals are now just waking up from the long deep hypnotic sleep Big Pharma has put us under. We’re now only collectively waking up to the amazing range of health benefits low carb high-fat diets bring to the table.  

What is a Ketone? Important Terminology

Ketosis: good. 

Ketoacidosis: VERY dangerous. 

Ketoacidosis is a life-threatening problem where the body’s ketone levels skyrocket leading to a coma. Thanks to the quick thinking and clever technical work of our medical team we were able to avert that disaster. Prior to seeing that patient, the only other time I had heard the term ketosis was its use as a treatment of last resort for juvenile seizure patients. Seizures take a heavy toll on children’s brains. Doctors and scientists cringe every time a youngster suffers a seizure. Each seizure kills a tremendous amount of brain cells. Some kids go through hundreds of seizures in a day. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that these patients’ brains are broken.

Doctors’ first line of treatment involves prescribing a range of anti-seizure medications. If the seizures don’t stop, we add even more meds. We know their rapidly growing brain depends upon how quickly we can stop all seizures. We try several medications in combination. When all that fails, we give up and put them on a diet that produces compounds called ketones. The goal is to get these patients to enter a state of ‘nutritional ketosis.’ In this state, the human body lives on fat.

In all my long years of training, my only exposure to the ketosis diet involved its use as a seizure treatment of last resort. So what made me go back and study what a ketone is again? What made me curious enough to recommend it to my mother-a 71-year-old cancer patient at the time? What made me recommend it to my sons, ages 12, 15, and 17? What made me start this scientific and medical advocacy which completely derailed and then transformed the way my internal medicine clinic runs?

The seemingly overactive hype regarding ketosis turns out to have a lot going for it. In fact, there is a tremendous amount of medical literature and long-standing scientific research for why we all should be eating 70-80% fatIf you’re looking for one of the most effective and efficient weight loss solutions I’ve seen in my 20-year medical career, ketosis is for you.

My Favorite Ketosis Benefits

If you’re looking for a way to supercharge your mental stamina, ketosis is for you. If you’re looking for the best anti-inflammatory on the planet-100 times more potent than ibuprofen and 10 times more powerful than any steroid I prescribe, ketosis is for you. If you worry about cancer and wonder why I instructed my 71-year-old-mother living with cancer to produce ketones, ketosis is for you. If you would like to know why I stopped prescribing Prozac as a first-line depression treatment and started teaching patients about ketones, ketosis is for you. If you want to learn about ketosis in plain English, keep reading these posts. I don’t want to confuse you by overloading you with data.  And there’s plenty of it out there. Instead, I have read and re-read those sourcebooks for you and present their findings in plain language.

I owe a great deal to those authors and scientists who educated me through their research, lectures, and writings. It offers a practical guide to adopting a ketogenic lifestyle.what is a ketone really

Keep reading:

  • If when you look down at your midsection and can pinch fat
  • If you would like to know how this treatment can improve your brain, body and energy levels
  • If you wish to learn how to cut down on doctor’s office visits.

Ketosis is for you.

Learn more about what foods to eat through our FOOD GUIDE teaching you the good – better – and best options for ketosis eating. 

 

 

 

 

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Ketosis and Kidneys: Let’s Set the Kidney-KETO Record Straight

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ketosis and kidneys image 1

Kidney Function:  We use the term KIDNEY FUNCTION to tell patients how well their kidneys are working. Kidneys are those quiet little organs that do a great deal of work but don’t “speak” much. Much like macho cowboys, kidneys put up with a lot of crap (or waste) and don’t complain much. They clean the blood. Kidneys sort the waste out of the blood and pour it into the bladder. They calculate the salts and minerals keeping them just right. They measure how much blood you have and tell the bone marrow when to make more blood. When things go wrong inside the kidney, they cowboy-up and take care of trouble without telling anyone.  

ketosis and kidneys image 1

You’ve heard of the term HEART ATTACK. That’s because the heart is a cry-baby. One little thing goes wrong in the heart and the body screams with pain, or shortness of breath, or pounding bouncing from inside your chest. Not the kidneys. They keep their game-face on until the end of life. Because of this quiet, stock personality, we never hear the complaints when a kidney gets hurt. If we want to know how your kidney is doing, we must check up on the kidney.  We order a test called the KIDNEY FUNCTION TEST. The test tells us at what capacity the kidneys are working. A perfect kidney scores 100% on this test. That means those kidneys are working at 100% of their expected capacity. A score of 80% slots you into Stage 1 kidney disease, while 50% places you into stage 3. We offer you dialysis if your score falls below 15%. You can’t live for long with only fifteen percent of your kidney cleaning your whole body.

Most patients with kidney problems don’t know they have a kidney problem. Lab tests show they’ve lost 30% or 40% or even 50% of their kidney function and they didn’t have a clue. Often their cowboy-kidneys haven’t said a word. They have NO SYMPTOMS. The next time your doctor checks your blood, ask for the kidney report.

Today’s most common reason killing kidneys lies hidden in your blood sugars. Normal blood sugars average out to be 83. That average number keeps kidneys healthy and alive. Sneak up into the average sugar of 100 or 120 and BAM … kidney cells start dropping like flies. Have you got one of those fat tummies that began mounding your midsection? You likely have blood sugars averaging between 100 and 120. This subtle shift in sugars kills kidney cells. Add a little high blood pressure and those cells die even faster.  Before long, you are scoring a failing grade on your KiDNEY FUNCTION TEST.

Once your kidneys have lost function, you can’t gain that back. I hedge a little bit on that because there is always room for a bit of repair.  If your kidneys function at 50% because you are 80 pounds overweight, we can fix that. Yep. Lose the weight and watch that function tick back up to 70% or 80% of their function. However, there is a tipping point where the amount of damage has killed off too many kidney cells, and you’ve been beating up on those kidneys for too long. That is the usual situation for the attrition of kidney cells.

The internet correctly warns patients with kidney problems not to overeat protein. High-protein diets require those stoic kidneys to filter out the extra urea and other nitrogenous wastes. Slower, less efficient, elimination of these wastes essentially leaves “urine” in the blood. It is called uremia.

If you have kidney problems and have been told to avoid a high-protein diet, remember this: KETO IS A HIGH-FAT DIET … not HIGH PROTEIN.

Don’t confuse the two. Keto-diet consists of 70-90% fat. No matter how you slice the rest of those percentage points, the room for protein is limited.

Overeating protein will kick you out of ketosis. Overeating protein with a KIDNEY FUNCTION TEST of 20% additionally stresses those cowboy-kidney cells. The advanced kidney problems requiring less protein match up well with a ketogenic diet.  I contend the ketogenic diet provides additional benefit for those failing kidneys.

Many patients develop kidney problems in the first place because they’ve been overweight for too long. They’ve had too much insulin or too big of a tummy for years. They’ve had long-term high blood pressure. These problems all destroy kidneys.

Your kidney may be damaged from too many years of high blood pressure, diabetes or pre-diabetes, or plain old obesity. If you have any of these conditions, one of the best things you can do for your kidneys is to get rid of your body’s inflammation by cutting out carbs.

In ketosis, your kidneys enjoy lower blood sugars, lower blood pressures and the absence of inflammation. Let your kidneys flourish in the setting of this anti-inflammatory compound called a ketone. Let ketones nourish, repair and rejuvenate your kidneys.  Oh and let’s not forget the tremendous relief weight loss will provide for your kidneys.ketosis and kidneys image 1

If you want to learn more about the ketogenic diet, check out the book ANYWAY YOU CAN on Amazon or Audible by Annette Bosworth, MD.

 

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Ketosis and Insulin Resistance: How Much is Enough Carbs?

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Ketosis and Insulin Resistance

I continue to fuel my body with ketones because of its effect on brain function. Ketosis’ main attraction to most people is its ability to produce smooth, almost effortless weight loss.

Ketosis makes weight loss quicker and easier. In fact, losing weight on a keto diet is a ‘no-brainer’ for many people. How come? It all boils down to insulin. Insulin opens and closes the gates of all of your fat cells.

If there is insulin near a fat storing cell, all fat stays locked inside. If you want to use the energy of your fat cells, insulin must leave the scene. Insulin is also the chemical messenger that allows glucose into the cell. Without insulin, those extra glucose molecules never gain access to your furnaces. They remain in your bloodstream, outside your cells.

Fat Loss and the Role of Insulin

When a patient asks for weight loss help, it often goes without saying that they are asking for help to get rid of their excess fat. No one has ever asked me to help them shed weight by trimming muscle tissue. Weight loss means getting rid of the contents stuffed in your fat-storing cells.

These cells fall under the commanding leadership of a mighty ruler: INSULIN.  Keep in mind the following rules. Insulin is King

Insulin controls energy storage. Insulin is the king of hormones. If insulin is present, glucose molecules evacuate from your blood. 

‘Be GONE!’ Where do the Glucose Molecules Go?

One of two options:

  1. GLUCOSE AS FUEL: Insulin siphons the glucose from the bloodstream to the inside of your cells.  These cells can be in your brain, liver, muscles, skin, or any other tissue. All will use glucose for energy.
  2. GLUCOSE AS STORAGE: Insulin triggers your storage cells to suction any extra glucose from your bloodstream and stores them. Most glucose gets stored as fat. Insulin orders all nearby fat cells to lock all their exits. Insulin orders the fat cells to not release any new energy into the system.

 

Your fat cells do not care about the origin of glucose in your bloodstream. They only follow their command of their mighty dictator, insulin. Two hours ago, you washed down an apple with some orange juice. Your blood sugar rose, and insulin squirted into your system. Because of that insulin, and sugar found in your system will be suctioned out of the bloodstream and put into the nearest storage cell.   

Fat cells cannot empty when insulin is around. You cannot use your stored fat as fuel as long as insulin is present.

This drawing was inspired by an old medical textbook picture showing a man whose body didn’t produce any insulin. Thankfully, he lived during a time where injectable insulin was available.

Ketosis and Insulin Resistance

I talk about insulin being evil. It is not all evil. It plays a necessary role in the healthy, normal operations of your body.

Your body needs a bare minimum of insulin to trade, store, and exchange energy. This hormone is necessary for life. If you don’t produce it, you’re going to die young unless you inject it. This man has two large mounds of fatty tissue on each of his thighs.  

He injected insulin into his thighs, in the same spots. Through the years, he injected insulin in the right thigh, then the left thigh-shot after shot after shot. Insulin saved his life.

He did not die from diabetes because he injected insulin. His pancreas failed to produce insulin.  Notice what happened in those areas near the injection points? Fat grew. And grew and grew and grew. His thighs’ muscle cells were not designed to store fat. But under the direction of insulin, his nearby fat cells followed orders.  They turned on the vacuum and sucked glucose into storage. Those rounded mounds are over-stuffed fat cells.

The injection of insulin changed that area from predominantly muscle cells to all fat.  The fat cells in the body were hundreds of times larger than they’re supposed to be because they were influenced continuously by concentrated doses of insulin. Over the course of several decades, insulin locked the fat inside those fat cells. He never went more than 24 hours without giving himself a shot. The fat that stored in those cells remained for decades. This next picture tells a similar story.*Ketosis and Insulin Resistance

This patient injected insulin in the same two spots in his abdomen. Insulin commanded those cells to store fat. After many years of insulin injections, he chemically ordered those cells to overgrow and over-fill with fat.

It is a narrow door unless he runs out of insulin for several days. The only way he will release the fat from those cells is to stop instructing the storage of fat through the injection of insulin. Before insulin injections became available, low carbohydrate diets kept people with type 1 diabetes alive.

Here’s an example of their recommended daily nutrient breakdown from 1915:

  •    10 grams of carbohydrates, 40 calories
  •    75 grams of protein, 300 calories
  • 150 grams fat, 1350 calories.
  •  15 grams of alcohol

Ketosis and Insulin Resistance

Almost all calories came from fat. I’m not entirely sure why they added 15 grams of alcohol, but that was also in the diet. It probably was distilled alcohol which has no carbohydrates in it. Alcohol completely stops the production of ketones in the liver. Alcohol, like a ketone, enters your cells without insulin. Without insulin, no glucose enters the cells. Glucose inside the cell stops ketone production. Without insulin to carry the glucose inside their cells, these 1915 diabetics had no ‘brakes’ for their ketone production, except for alcohol. Alcohol’s inclusion in their diet might have prevented the ketoacidosis-that dangerous buildup of excess ketones in the body that can lead to coma and death.

Normally, insulin is secreted from your pancreas every time your guts sense carbohydrates. For example, milk has sugar in it called lactose. As soon as your stomach detects that lactose, it triggers your pancreas to squeeze out some insulin. Insulin then permeates the body, and orders cells to vacuum up sugar out of the blood, causing your blood sugar level to drop. Insulin instructs your cells to soak up sugars. It also flows past fat cells. Insulin commands fat cells to lockdown their exits and sucks in any extra nearby energy. Stored energy can’t leave fat cells. The entrance doors to the fat cells still work; the exits don’t.

If you want to empty your fat cells, you must turn off the vacuum pulling your energy into these cells. The on/off switch for your fat cells’ vacuum is insulin. To empty your body’s fat storage cells, stop making insulin.  

How do you stop producing insulin? Stop eating carbohydrates.

Listed below are certain common foods and their impact on ketosis. If you want less fat insulating your body, stop making so much insulin. Less insulin means weight loss-specifically from your fat cells. The following fattening foods lock down your fat cells from releasing any of your stored fat.

FATTENING FOOD

Bread: Anything made from wheat flour, white flour, pumpernickel flour, rye flour, tortillas, waffles, rolls, pasta, raisin bread

Cereals and Grains: bran cereals, cooked cereals, stuffing, unsweetened cereals, cornmeal, couscous, granola, grape-nuts, grits, pasta, quinoa, rice, brown rice, shredded wheat, sugar cereals

Fruit Juices: All juices associated with fruit, except lemon or lime juice in small quantities.

Fruit:  Apple, applesauce, dried apples, apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, Kiwi, honeydew, mangoes, mandarin oranges, nectarines, oranges, Papaya, Peaches, pears, pineapples, raisins, tangerines, dried fruit

Beans, Peas, and Nuts: baked beans, black beans, peas, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans, split beans, black-eyed beans, lima beans, cashew nuts, chestnuts, tofu, soybeans

Milk: nonfat milk, chocolate milk, evaporated milk, skim milk, whole milk, soy milk, nonfat yogurt.

Bad Carb-Vegetables: corn, peas, potatoes, squash, yams, sweet potatoes

Snacks: animal crackers, goldfish crackers, graham crackers, oyster crackers, popped popcorn, pretzels, sandwich crackers, chips, tortilla chips, potato chips, french fries

Sweets: Anything with sugar, honey, or other sweeteners. Cake, biscuits, brownies, candy, chocolate, cookies, sauces, donuts, ice cream, jams, jellies, ketchup, pie, frosting

 

WEIGHT LOSS FOOD: Eat these for fat loss

Fat: Ironically enough, to lose flab, you need to eat fat. How come? There are no carbs found in fat. There is no insulin produced when you consume fat. Just make sure not to add sugar (or other carbohydrates) to your fat.  

Meat: beef, pork, ham, lamb, veal, bacon, pork belly, or any game meat (rabbit, moose, elk, venison)

WARNING: Excess protein trigger insulin production.

  • Processed Meat: salami, pepperoni, sausage, Spam, liverwurst, bologna, hot dogs, bacon, ham. Make sure these are loaded with fat and not ‘light’ or ‘lean’ versions.
  • Poultry: chicken, turkey, duck, pheasant or any game birds.   [Note: Eat the skin that’s where most of the fat is. Pork rinds are a tremendous carb-free breading!]
  • Seafood: any fish or shellfish. Here is an incomplete list: salmon, halibut, cod, crab, prawns, clams, oysters, mussels, squid, octopus, smoked fish, dried fish, canned fish /seafood (sardines, tuna)

Eggs: Whole eggs

SALAD/ LEAVES: (range from 0.5–5 carbs per 1 cup) leafy greens, dandelion, beet greens, collards, mustard greens, turnip, arugula, chicory, endive, escarole, fennel, radicchio, romaine lettuce, sorrel, spinach, kale, chard, parsley, lettuce, onion tops, leeks, alfalfa sprouts, seaweed

Vegetables:

  • Cruciferous vegetables: (ranges 3–6 grams of carbs per 1 cup) Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, garden cress, watercress
  • Uncooked vegetables that grow above ground: (2–4 grams of carbs per 1 cup)  Celery, cucumber, zucchini, chives, leeks, asparagus, eggplant
  • Uncooked vegetables higher in carbs- only in moderation: (3–7 grams of carbs per 1 cup) asparagus, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, bell pepper, sugar snap peas, water chestnuts, radishes, jicama, green beans, wax beans, tomatoes
  • Cooked Vegetables: (15-25 grams of carbs per 1 cup– WARNING: These vegetables throw most people out of ketosis.) Eat once every six weeks. Sweet peas, artichokes, okra, carrots, beets, and parsnips.

Don’t go overboard with vegetables since they contain carbohydrates. Instead, think of them as nutritional ‘vehicles’ that carry fat to your guts. Add olive oil, sour cream, butter or other fats to your vegetables. Make sure you don’t overcook them.

Cheese: Choose full-fat cheeses, not low-fat. The high-fat, hard cheeses have the least carbs.

  • Full-fat cheeses: (0.5–1.5 grams carbs per one ounce or about 1/4 cup) Gouda, Brie, Edam, Cheddar, Colby, goat cheese, Swiss, Gruyere and more
  • Aged cheeses: Cheddar, Gruyere, Manchego, Gouda and Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano / Grana Padano Such)
  • Soft Cheeses: Camembert, Brie, blue, feta, swiss, goat cheese, Monterey jack, mozzarella
  • Dairy: Heavy whipping cream, sour cream

Ketosis and Insulin Resistance

If you want to empty your fat cells, change your body’s chemistry to unlock the exit doors.  Decrease the insulin first. Insulin blocks weight loss.

If you want to learn more about the ketogenic diet, check out the book ANYWAY YOU CAN on Amazon or Audible by Annette Bosworth, MD.

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M.D. Anderson on the Keto Diet and Cancer

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keto diet and cancer

M.D. Anderson on the Keto Diet and Cancer

I first became curious about the keto diet and cancer in 2015. I am a medical doctor that specializes in internal medicine. That means I focus on patients’ ‘long game.’ I think about questions like:

What are the consequences of 20 years of high blood pressure?

What happens when you have been overweight for 15 years?

What are the risks of smoking marijuana for ten years?

I aim to help patients prevent disasters before they ever become aware of a symptom.  Thankless in many ways, but rewarding strategically. I specialize in assisting patients in achieving behavioral changes that add years to their lives.

I also like to study chronic brain problems like Parkinson’s, depression, bipolar, seizures, addiction, anxiety, high blood pressure, strokes, and brain fog. My practice displays a calico pattern of brains that don’t work correctly.

keto diet and cancer

However, if you have one of the ‘bad boys’-I’m talking about cancers that kill people within six months- even Mayo Clinic will refer you to the crown jewel of all cancer treatment centers: M.D. Anderson. This organization leads innovation worldwide in treating cancer.

When M.D. Anderson releases a cancer protocol, the medical world should sit up and pay attention. Strangely, M.D. Anderson did not announce their newly implemented ketosis protocol at any medical conference. I did NOT read about this update in any medical journal.

Nope. Instead, a patient whispered this information to me as if she was worried about how I would respond. This earth-shattering information, shared via my patient’s small hushed voice, has since changed my whole approach to patient care. Her mother was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, one of the worst forms of brain cancer. Her mother lived in Texas, near M.D. Anderson. Accordingly, she landed in the hands of the most respected cancer treatment scientists today. When my patient heard that her mother couldn’t receive the first dose of radiation until she’d been in ketosis for two weeks, the daughter did what I would have done: she asked questions.

When she squeezed out all the information she could get from her mom’s medical staff, she hit the library. Still skeptical whether her mother was getting the very best care, she brought her questions to me-her primary care physician.  My response: a blank stare over the rims of my glasses as I processed the word ‘ketosis.’

Not one of my stellar moments.

This happens a lot. Patients bring me a multi-level-marketing-hyped super weird chemical. They ask me what I think. Most of the time these chemicals are a waste of their money. Usually, those products’ effects are so minor they won’t hurt anyone. But that’s not always the case, so I take the time to check them out. This patient’s ketosis question kicked my brain into high gear.

For starters, when she said ‘ketosis’ my brain automatically heard ‘ketoacidosis.’ Fifteen years had passed since I last encountered a ketoacidosis patient. Back in medical school, every time I took a test, they asked about this super scary syndrome of ketoacidosis. When I mistakenly heard ketoacidosis instead of ketosis, I reflexively answered, “Hell no, that sounds scary!”

keto diet and cancer

Except, this woman’s mother was at the crown jewel of all global cancer treatment centers. Why would they be asking this woman to pee ketones before they zap her brain with cancer-killing radiation?  Every single day they delayed the radiation therapy made her survival chances worse. There had to be more to this situation.

I bought myself some time and asked the patient for a week to research the question. My trusty researcher flooded my inbox with ketosis research linked to M.D. Anderson. Her research led to the articles that changed my whole practice philosophy.

I found the information referring to the new ketosis protocol at M.D. Anderson. It was very technical, advanced biochemistry chatter. I got the essence of the message that cancer cells used blood sugar or glucose for fuel. Cancer cells don’t use ketones for fuel. They don’t have the cellular goods to use ketones.

 

For starters, ketones are fuel? Hmmpt. Interesting. Ketones are not the super scary, acidic molecules known to send patients to the intensive care unit.

I’m sure we covered this in medical school. But that was so long ago it felt like new information to me. I had lost that fact many brain cells ago.

The articles went on to discuss that when we fed cancer-filled-animals only ketones, certain cancer cells starved. It sounded a little too good to be true. Still, I was not reading the latest self-published update from hucksters selling salts that change your eye color. It was straight from one of the world’s leading cancer research institutions.

I scanned the report for side effects. Patients in ketosis undergoing radiation treatment run the risk of killing off too many problem cells at once. It can clog their filtration system with dead cancer cells. What?

What a fantastic problem for terminally ill patients to have?!  Let me pick THAT problem for my patients any day. We kill cancer TOO WELL?  Awesome!

Department of Defense Studies on Ketosis

My gem of a researcher didn’t stop the search there. She sent me several other articles. One item from the Department of Defense caught my eye. As a doctor, this one resource stood out to me because the Department of Defense does NOT usually take money from Big Pharma.

keto diet and cancer

Medical research requires funding. Someone has to foot the bill. Usually, that someone has a good reason to spend their money. Figure out who funded the study-and you quickly know the results before even reading the report. Call me cynical, but this is how things typically work in the world of Big Pharma or direct-to-consumer industries.

Put it this way, if a multi-level-marketing company funds a study, don’t be surprised if the report concludes that their product saves the world. What a coincidence, right? That is the reason why I don’t get excited quickly when a new ‘groundbreaking study’ starts making the rounds. For me to get excited, I need something more, well, objective.

 

When it comes to objectivity, the DOD (The United States Department of Defense) does not play around. It is one of those sources where any potential bias is so small that you can almost believe every word you read.

 

The Department of Defense released an article describing a study involving ketosis and their divers. At first, I thought, “How strange.” Why would a deep-sea diver need ketosis? The short answer: seizures. The resource explained that our Navy SEALS spend a lot of time underwater. They also pride themselves on stealth. SEALS are all about sneak attacks. Accordingly, they don’t use standard scuba equipment. Their breathing devices won’t leak out bubbles. Good idea, right?

 

If you’re trying to hide from the enemy by swimming underwater, you can’t leave a trail of bubbles. Talk about a dead giveaway.

A rebreather allows divers to breathe the same air over and over again without leaking bubbles. It calculates the gas concentrations of particles in the air. Their oxygen delivery remains steady while toxic gas levels remain low. What an awesome tool. Right? GO NAVY.

keto diet and cancer

The rebreather makes stealth diving possible without a bubble trail-except for one problem: Every single one of the Navy SEALS using this device started having seizures. Oops, that’s not going to work. There’s one thing worse than having a seizure: having one 30 feet underwater!

The DOD’s research team quickly set out to discover how to prevent the seizures. The first approach they used replicated what we kids having hundreds of seizures a day: anti-seizure medicine. They prescribed these meds to Navy SEALS.

The results? Stupid Navy Seals. No, really.

The medicines slowed their brain processes down-by a lot. Their timing and reaction skills got super slow, and, worst of all it, didn’t prevent one stinkin’ seizure!

Back to the drawing board.

After reading through some literature from the 1900s, research team members found that most of the seizure studies available focused on children. Sadly, most kids were prescribed medication that slowed down their brains. This effect, it turns out, was by design. The most common anti-seizure drugs work this way. Since seizures are spread through the circuits in our our brain’s, slowing down electrical activity should hold the seizures at a standstill. This solution works for most kids at quite a substantial sacrifice of mental speed and performance.

What happens when the medication fails? The DOD Researchers Unearthed the Answer: The Ketogenic Diet.

keto diet and cancerThe results were startling. The skeptic in me wondered about the chances of this DOD report containing your typical Big Pharma version of snake oil hype. I just could not put DOD in the same category as Big Pharma. The DOD is not in the business of getting the public excited about a new treatment for seizures. There’s no conflict of interest, at least, as far as I could see.

Thanks to this study, ketosis remained stuck to the roof of my mind like hard to reach mental peanut butter. Still, I was looking for something more convincing. The DOD report was eye-opening, but something still held me back from recommending ketosis to my patients.

Autopsy Studies

I needed another data source. Something I know that offers little wiggle room for hyped up conclusions. I found it in the form of autopsies. Yes. Autopsy studies are beneficial. You set up a study selecting a set of patients who have a childhood problem and follow them all the way to death.

Once dead, look at their bodies under a microscope. That’s my kind of study. Remember: I am an internist whose job is to predict what crappy things await you in the future and the best strategies to avoid them.

There is just one problem with long-range childhood to autopsy studies: They are very very very RARE.

How come? That is not how most drug research is done. Drug companies hate these kinds of studies. They take too long and are quite expensive. For Pharma companies to keep costs down, they use animal studies.

They might do a 2-year study to see how well their medicine works. From that point, a statistician makes some long-term extrapolation about future effects based on the two-year data. Bla. Bla. Bla. What’s wrong with this picture? How trustworthy is data based on some goofy numbers twisted by a statistician on a drug company’s payroll?

 

That is why the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end when my researcher drew my attention to an autopsy study involving ketosis. Dead people don’t lie … as often. Who are the dead people we were inspecting? They were not cancer patients.

Nope, these were the kids from the 1950s and 1960s who were put on a ketogenic diet because prescription seizure drugs failed to make their seizures go away.

 

Those were the called the ketosis kids. When these kids were in their early teens and suffering from severe seizure disorders, their doctors had failed to control the seizures using medication. After running out of other options, they began a ketogenic diet. These kids were hospitalized and underwent ketosis transition. Even their families were trained by doctors to keep these patients on a ketogenic diet for a lifetime.  Their compliance with the diet was nearly perfect.  Going out of ketosis caused the return of their seizures.

And now they were dying. Not from seizures mind you. They were dying of old age or health problems unrelated to seizures.

As the dead patients rolled back into the study 60 years later, a few striking findings appeared in the first few corpses. For starters, their brains were some of the healthiest minds the pathologist had ever seen. Wait. Stop.

That is entirely backward. These are seizure patients. The drugs failed them. They got put on this diet as a last resort because they had hundreds of seizures a day.

If you want to see the worst human brains, take a look at the autopsies of seizure patients who suffered decades of untreated and uncontrolled seizures. Seizure patients’ brains are known for being in terrible shape at autopsy. Why are the ketosis kids’ brains so different?

keto diet and cancerEven when we controlled the seizures, seizure patients’ brains aged differently from normal healthy brains. They tend to be smaller. The insulation coating the nerves throughout seizure patients’ brains are usually thinner. Instead of the smooth areas seen in normal brains, the brain circuits of seizure patients have a poke-a-dot pattern. Simply put, typical seizure patients’ scans look a lot like some of my drug-addicted patients’: broken. Yet, these keto kids’ brains were pristine.

Neurofibril tangles, also called brain plaques, are one of the disease markers we see in brains at autopsy. If you’ve ever looked into the grey matter of people with Alzheimer’s, you’d know what a neurofibril tangle is. For those of you that haven’t heard this word before, here is your crash course in neurofibrillary tangles: think of it as ‘rust’ in your brain. It is a buildup of ‘gunk’ that is linked to many brain diseases.  Brains struggling with seizures, even low-level ones, reveal many of these tangles when autopsied.

So why do the grown-up, keto kids’ brains look so good?  It seems impossible. How could a seizure brain have no neurofibrillary tangles?

At this point, I became extremely curious about ketosis.If the lack of brain damage among ketosis patients was eye-opening, my curiosity was kicked up a notch when the autopsies showed that the initial set of patients had no cancer. It was shocking to me because everybody has cancer.

Yeah, I hate to break it to you, but we all have some cancer floating around in our bodies. The real question is how well can we fight off that cancer and undo our body’s cellular mistakes. If you were to autopsy an old person and tell me that they don’t have cancer at all in their bodies, I wouldn’t believe you. I’d insist that you look again. I’d think that you meant that they have a lower amount of cancer. I can’t imagine a human body at autopsy having no cancer. Everybody has little cancer.

In the 1920s, we learned that tumor cells don’t need oxygen to survive, but they certainly need glucose. Strange. Those cancer cells don’t like a high level of oxygen, but they need their sugar.

Here’s the clincher: cancer cells can’t use ketones for fuel. At this point in my research, only two words came to my mind: hot diggity!!

In 20 years of practice, I’ve never canceled my clinic to study. Studying always came in the extra hours of running a private practice. But I found myself canceling patients so I could better understand this phenomenon I’d stumbled upon. This was far too shocking to let another day go by without me understanding, “What’s the deal with ketosis?”

Learn more about what foods to eat through our FOOD GUIDE teaching you the good – better – and best options for ketosis eating.

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