How Metabolic Therapies Prevent and Treat Chronic Diseases

This article was originally published by our friend Dr. Mercola

Cancer has become Americans’ No. 1 health concern. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1,600 people die every day from cancer in the U.S. That’s over 600,000 people each year. When you include the entire world population that number climbs tenfold to over 7.6 million. Statistics suggest half of all men and 4 out of 10 women will develop cancer during their lifetimes.

Alzheimer’s disease is another major health threat that has dramatically increased in recent years. Between 1999 and 2014, the death rate from Alzheimer’s increased by 55 percent. According to the latest statistics, Alzheimer’s claims the lives of more than half a million Americans each year, and unless there are radical changes, many experts project half of the population will eventually develop it.

These are grim statistics, but there is hope. Mounting evidence shows both of these conditions — as well as many other top killers — are metabolic diseases. This is actually good news, because that means you can prevent, treat and recover from them like other metabolic conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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Ketogenic Diet Shows Tremendous Promise as Tool Against Chronic Disease

A number of experts and researchers are now convinced the answer to our burgeoning cancer and Alzheimer’s epidemics is a ketogenic diet and other metabolic support. Nutritional ketosis is the metabolic state associated with an increased production of ketones in your liver; i.e., the biological reflection of being able to burn fat, and is defined as having blood ketones in the range of 0.5 to 3.0 millimoles per liter.

Personally, I believe metabolic therapy — starting with a ketogenic diet — is an absolutely crucial facet of dementia and cancer prevention and treatment, and hopefully some day it will be adopted as a first line of treatment by mainstream medicine. The two videos included in this article feature Dominic D’Agostino, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of South Florida College of Medicine.

He teaches courses in molecular pharmacology and physiology, and maintains involvement in several studies researching metabolic treatments for neurological disorders such as seizures, Alzheimer’s, ALS and cancer, all of which are metabolically linked.

What Is Metabolic Therapy?

Metabolic therapy is an umbrella term that includes nutrition (primarily in the form of a ketogenic diet), dietary supplements, drugs that have a therapeutic influence on energy metabolism, fasting, hyperthermia, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and more. The focus of D’Agostino’s talk is the biological effects of nutritional ketosis and ketone supplements. The first 15 minutes or so are spent explaining the background of how he got into looking at fasting as a therapeutic aid to improve brain metabolism.

The second half of the video goes into practical applications of nutritional ketosis, and its anticancer effects. In my latest book, “Fat for Fuel,” I present a program called metabolic mitochondrial therapy (MMT), which is a form of metabolic therapy.

MMT includes not only cyclical ketosis, but also a variety of other strategies to improve your mitochondria other than diet, such as cold thermogenesis, photobiology, detox, exercise and electromagnetic field (EMF) avoidance. As noted by D’Agostino, metabolic therapies have the ability to treat a broad range of pathologies, not just cancer, making it all the more valuable from a clinical standpoint.

Ketones Fuel Your Body and Brain During Starvation

As explained by D’Agostino, it had long been thought that the brain could only function on glucose, but studies looking at the effects of starvation showed otherwise. In fact, during starvation, such as a bout of fasting, your brain switches to using ketones  derived from dietary fats, as its primary fuel, and ketones actually enhance brain function. If you eat a regular diet, which tends to be higher in net carbs than fats, your brain will almost exclusively use glucose as its primary fuel.

D’Agostino cites a study in which overweight participants fasted for 40 days. After the first week, their ketones  skyrocketed, overtaking glucose as the primary fuel source for the body (and brain). Studies have also shown that during fasting, at least two-thirds or more of the energy your body produces is derived from ketone bodies. “So, ketones function as an alternative fuel for the brain [when] glucose is not available,” D’Agostino explains.

Now, putting your body into starvation mode through longer water fasts is not an attractive option for most people. The good news is a ketogenic diet mimics the effects of fasting in that it elevates ketones and lowers blood glucose. The key to nutritional ketosis is twofold: You need to dramatically reduce the amount of net carbohydrates you eat (total carbs minus fiber), and you need to eat a significant amount of healthy dietary fats.

Ketogenic Diet Often Better Than Drugs for the Treatment of Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder marked by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain that trigger seizures. The Epilepsy Foundation suggests epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological condition, with an estimated 65 million people worldwide affected by it.1

Some 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with epilepsy annually, with children and older adults experiencing the highest incidence rates.2 Nutritional ketosis has been shown to be a very effective treatment for many epileptics, especially children who do not respond well to the medications used.

Research shows administration of synthetic ketone ester raises seizure resistance in rats by a whopping 575 percent, “which is above and beyond any anti-seizure medication that has been tried in this model,” D’Agostino notes. He then goes on to describe and explain the anticonvulsant and neuroprotective mechanism of ketones. In summary, both a ketogenic diet and synthetic ketone supplementation alters the ratio of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate in your brain.

Conditions and Diseases That Can Benefit From Ketones

Ketones — whether from nutritional ketosis or use of a ketone supplement — also enhance brain energy metabolism and increase the energy reserves in your brain. These therapeutic effects can be exploited for the benefit of many different conditions and diseases, including:

Hypoxia (which can result from a stroke, space flight or even just exposure to high altitude) Glucose transporter deficiency syndrome (a genetic seizure disorder) Angelman’s syndrome (a seizure and motor dysfunction disorder) Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) Alzheimer’s disease
Parkinson’s disease Epilepsy Traumatic brain injury Impaired wound healing Cancer

Some of these syndromes, glucose transporter deficiency syndrome and Angleman’s syndrome specifically, require patients to remain on a very strict ketogenic diet to avoid seizures. D’Agostino’s research suggests supplemental ketones may be used, allowing these patients to be less strict with their diet, without forgoing the benefits of strict nutritional ketosis. In terms of wound healing, ketones have been shown to increase profusion of blood into the wounded area, thereby facilitating healing.

How Ketones Affect Cancer Cells

D’Agostino has shown that oxygen, at levels that are nontoxic to healthy cells, are toxic to cancer cells. In essence, cancer cells are more vulnerable to oxygen toxicity. His team has also demonstrated that ketones are toxic to cancer cells. When cancer cells are placed in a petri dish and fed only ketones, they simply die. Healthy cells, on the other hand, will thrive in the presence of ketones without glucose.

What this and other research tells us is that healthy cells, including brain cells, have a very high degree of metabolic flexibility and are able to thrive on either glucose or ketones (obtained through your diet from carbohydrates and healthy fats respectively). Not so with cancer cells. Defects in their metabolism due to having damaged mitochondria prevent them from metabolizing ketones. For this reason, glucose is the predominant fuel that allow cancer cells to thrive.

Research by Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D., professor of biology at Boston College and a leading expert and researcher in the field of cancer metabolism and nutritional ketosis, shows that tumor growth is tightly correlated with blood glucose levels.

When glucose and glutamine levels are low, and ketone levels are high, very little tumor growth occurs, and as glucose levels rise, tumor growth increases right along with it. In fact, the fluorodeoxyglucose PET scan is a technology that shows glucose consumption in tissue, allowing you to identify and track the aggressiveness of cancer tumors.

All Cancers Arise From Mitochondrial Dysfunction

According to D’Agostino, in rats, the best results were obtained from a combination of ketogenic diet, ketone supplementation and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In summary, the rationale for using a ketogenic diet and other metabolic therapies is to address and repair the mitochondrial defects causing the condition or disease in the first place. Again, nutritional ketosis prevents and combats cancer by:

Optimizing mitochondrial function, mitochondrial biogenesis and energy production Decreasing blood glucose, glycolysis and glucogenesis
Decreasing your insulin level Increasing tissue oxygenation
Decreasing ROS generation and secondary free radicals Downregulating oncogenes and upregulating tumor suppressor genes

 


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