I’ve recently received a number of queries from patients and practitioners who are curious about a handful of studies and anecdotal reports that indicate a ketogenic diet may help to curtail cancer growth. For those not familiar with the ketogenic diet, it’s a very low carbohydrate diet that contains moderate amounts of protein and a high percentage of fats.
I prefer to think of foods in their whole, natural forms (for example, almonds, apples, asparagus, blueberries, oatmeal, olives, potatoes, rye, and salmon) instead of in reductionist terms of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Keeping this in mind, the primary purpose of dietary carbohydrates is for fuel—the body converts carbohydrates via the liver into glucose, which is used for everything from powering muscles to brain function. When confronted with a lack of carbohydrates, the body switches to burning fats for energy by converting fats (again via the liver) into ketone bodies.