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Starving Cancer?

Of course, every enterprising quack has a "magic bullet" against cancer in his or her repertoire. Whether it's Bach flower remedies, holy water, or copper bracelets, people who fear for their lives are a source of easy money.

I am probably going to sound like one of those people.

Still, I feel compelled to report that several German university hospitals now recommend a low-carb (or in medical terms, ketogenic) diet for cancer patients. The idea behind this is fairly simple: unlike most other cells in our bodies, which, as mentioned, can get energy from both sugar and fat (ketones), cancer cells rely almost exclusively on sugar. We know that cancer patients often develop a craving for sweets, and in the end stages of cancer, the disease even forces the body to convert muscle into sugar.

The approach of the Universities of Würzburg and Mannheim (in each case the gynecological department) and of the oncology department in Frankfurt is to offer cancer patients a low-carb diet with a lot of fat and protein. This is meant to prevent or at least slow down muscle loss. Another effect is - in my view - much more exciting, although still in the early stages of study: when there are fewer carbs in the body, it's probably harder for "sugar-junkie" cancer to flourish. Cancer cells divide much faster than normal cells and need a lot of sugar to accomplish this. If the patient eats a low-carb diet, though, this sugar won't be available. There is evidence that in some cases this can slow the progress of the disease, if not stop it altogether.

Hospitals in other countries (Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Duke University) are also doing research on this subject. Since I myself have acquaintances and friends who recently received cancer diagnoses, I think it would be great if this research produced results soon. Even though I've complained about doctors on this blog, I wish them luck.

Links to more information:

University Hospital of Würzburg

Study from the Mannheim University Gynecological Clinic

Study from the University Hospital of Frankfurt, Department of Neuro-Oncology

Reports on the studies on NDR television

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