Can a low carbohydrate diet change your genetics and reduce the risk of cancer?



The low carbohydrate diet is all the rage these days for everything from losing weight and gaining more mental focus to lowering inflammation. 

But can eating a low carbohydrate diet change your
genetics to prevent or in some cases even reverse illnesses like breast cancer?

Several studies weigh in with their answers. Let’s take a closer look.

Editor’s note: For a limited time, get FREE access to the Keto Edge Summit and find out how a low carbohydrate diet can help you regain your health and thrive.

There are two definitions of a low carbohydrate diet, but only one reduces cancer

Before we get into the science of how a low carbohydrate diet can help cancer, let’s clear up the confusion and define exactly what “low carb” is.  The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP-DGA) state that carbohydrates should make up to between 45 and 65% of a person’s total daily calorie intake.

According to the DGA, about 300-400 grams per day would be “average” for a person who consumes 2,000 calories a day.

This is a very high amount of carbohydrates to consume in one day! None the less, according to the Guidelines, anything less than this would be considered a low carbohydrate diet.  

As you can see, eating according to the DGA will not produce the health effects you are looking for if you are struggling with a major disease like breast cancer.
Studies show that true ‘low-carb eating’ can lead to cancer reversal

If you are eating a low carbohydrate diet for specific health benefits such as reducing inflammation and preventing cancer, then 50 to 100 grams per day is considered low-carb. Those on a “ketogenic” diet normally consume less than 50 grams per day, in addition to high healthy fats and moderate protein.

Within the conventional literature, there is ample evidence to show that diets with carbohydrate input hovering at around 100 grams, and in some cases very low-carb “ketogenic” diets, can slow tumor growth by literally “starving” cancer cells of what they need most to survive: glucose.

One of the largest studies to prove this was a 2011 review by German researchers at the University Hospital of W├╝rzburg.
The study showed that:

    Low-carb eating starves cancer cells of glucose.
    Low carb eating floods the body with free fatty acids (or ketone bodies) which cancer cells cannot absorb.
    
Low-carb diets can lower blood glucose, insulin resistance, and Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF1) levels. IGF1 is a marker for diabetes as well as systemic inflammation.
    Low-carb diets can lower inflammation in the body overall.

A ketogenic diet and its link to eliminating cancer cells

In addition to the established links between a low carbohydrate diet and good health, new research on animal models has begun to connect higher levels of “ketone bodies” to slowed cancer tumor growth. These findings are leading researchers to speculate that ketones may play a role in cancer reversal at the genetic level.

Ketone bodies are produced by the liver in an environment of low carbohydrate load. In the absence of glucose from carbs, the body will obtain the energy it needs by breaking down fatty acids, thus forming ketones. There have been quite a few studies recently which point to ketones as being cancer-protective.

As mentioned above, it has long been established that cancer cells cannot metabolize ketones like healthy cells can. A joint study between the University of South Florida and Boston College decided to test this hypothesis out on mice. 

They found that normally fast-spreading skin cancer tumors decreased when the mice were given ketone supplementation.
Low carbohydrates may overcome genetic defects that can lead to cancer

Other studies have focused on how ketones change genetics specifically. Researchers at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona found that a ketogenic diet caused genetic changes in the tumor cells. In particular, high ketone levels affected genes involved in the production of “Reactive Oxygen Species” (ROS) which cause DNA damage.

The presence of ketones cut the production of ROS in cancer cells significantly.

And finally, researchers in other fields are discovering ways in which ketones can epigenetically upgrade inherited DNA defects. A study conducted at Johns Hopkins University and published in the January 2017 edition of U.S. 

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discovered that a ketogenic diet can “open up” DNA to improve mental function in mice who have a condition like Kabuki Syndrome in humans.
Eating a low carbohydrate diet (long-term) may not be for everyone

If you decide to try a low-carb or ketogenic diet, you should also be aware of the risks, especially if you go on it for a long period of time or you are pregnant. Studies have shown that low carb eating during pregnancy may cause birth defects.

In addition, many experts, such as Dr. Paul Jaminet (author of Perfect, Healthy Diet) have pointed out that cancer patients should not go in to “glucose deficiency” for too long since glucose proteins are also needed for the intracellular signaling of healthy cells. There may also be a need to watch for kidney stones and mineral deficiencies.

Most agree that while a ketogenic diet may be very effective in the short term, consuming a small number of carbs (around 100 g) may not be the best dietary option long-term.

If there is one thing that I have learned in my years in the health industry, it is there is no “one-size-fits-all” diet. I have seen some individuals with breast cancer do very well on a ketogenic diet. Others do not.

One thing is for certain, however. According to the latest research, it appears that there is a lot more to the power of ketones for living a healthy, vibrant, cancer-free life than previously thought!
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