It’s well known that elevated fasting blood sugar is a precursor to diabetes. Less well known, but increasingly recognized, is that elevated fasting serum glucose and/or insulin levels are also risk factors for cancer, and the risk grows as fasting blood sugar and insulin levels rise. With the escalation of obesity and diabetes worldwide, it is important to recognize these diseases as causative factors for cancer development, especially for older individuals.
In last week’s post, I talked about the toxicity of commercial sunscreens, and why they are bad for your health. I also mentioned that the sun is not the primary cause of skin aging and skin cancer, and promised to share my conclusions with you this week.
Despite the enormously bad press the sun has received in the past few decades, all skin damage is not the fault of the sun. The root cause of skin aging (including wrinkling, hyperpigmentation, and loss of collagen) as well as skin cancer is oxidative damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS). While the sun is one of the factors that create ROS, there are many other culprits, including external factors (air pollution and chemical exposure) and internal factors (poor diet, emotional stress, lack of sleep, and the natural aging process). ROS are believed to trigger skin cancer and photosensitivity diseases by activating proliferative and cell survival signaling that can alter apoptotic pathways (the self-destruction of abnormal cells).
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.