One Lump Or Two
If you've ever been in an accident, there is often a point when everything goes into slow motion.
You can see the disaster unfolding in front of you, but are powerless to stop it.
There are two large industries in this situation at the moment. A simultaneous calamity is about to strike pharmaceuticals and food. They are making efforts to limit the damage, but even at this early stage, they could be too late.
What's happening? Sugar and cancer, that's what's happening.
There is growing evidence that malignant tumours have a weak spot. Fast-growing cancer cells are entirely dependent on glucose.
And they also use a different pathway to process sugar to the one used by healthy cells. That opens up the possibility of effective treatments for cancer that block its energy supply.
Ironically such a development would be a massive blow to the drug industry. "Incurable" diseases like cancer are money spinners for them. If a cure for cancer appears, then millions of dollars will be wiped off their balance sheets.
However, it gets worse. Many commentators have gone a step beyond the research. Plainly, they say, if cancer needs sugar then reducing dietary intake of the stuff may halt its growth. That seems obvious.
Keto diets, that limit carbohydrate intake, lower blood sugar. Less glucose in the blood means limited nutrition for tumours. Is it possible that simply changing your diet could be the solution to cancer?
At the moment this idea is merely speculation. But I get the impression that the drug companies are worried about it. A cure is terrible enough, but a remedy that is freely available and non-pharmaceutical? Good news for humanity but a disaster for purveyors of medication.
The food industry may also be having sleepless nights. Carbohydrates, and sugar in particular, are their most profitable line. It's not accidental that they add sugar to so many of their products. Sweetness is like a drug, and consumers can't get enough of it. If the public starts to link carb consumption with the big C, then there will be one hell of a shake-out in the food business.
There is an unimaginable amount of money at stake here. Curing cancer with a low carb diet would hit two mighty industries very hard. Predictably they have started to campaign against this unwelcome notion. When you search for articles linking sugar and cancer, there is a striking uniformity among the results. The same three points crop up again and again:
1) Though cancer cells need sugar, normal cells need it as well.
2) Starving cancer through diet would mean starving your whole body.
3) Reducing intake of sugar weakens the body when it requires proper nutrition to fight the disease.
However, these arguments are wrong. They ignore the fact that most healthy cells can use an alternative fuel source, ketones, for energy instead of sugar.
This pathway is called ketosis or fat burning. It is a natural metabolic state. Ketosis is triggered when carbohydrates are low in the diet. Fatty acids are broken down into ketones which can supply most normal cells with their needs.
Ketosis can occur during pregnancy, infancy, and fasting. Many believe that it was the norm when we were hunter-gatherers. If that is true, then the human race existed in Ketosis for most of the last 200,000 years.
Normal cells can switch between glucose and ketones for their energy supply. It is easy to meet the body's calorific demands without consuming carbs. Therefore a low carbohydrate regime does not result in starvation.
However, there is one drawback to fat burning. The pathway produces energy more slowly than glycolysis (sugar burning). It seems that cancer cells are growing so fast that only glucose can supply them quickly enough.
This dependence on sugar makes them unable to adapt to the metabolic changes that occur when the body goes into ketosis. Hence the potential of a keto diet for fighting malignancy.
It is telling that ketogenic diets are often portrayed as weird and unsustainable in mainstream articles. However, starchy carbohydrates are a very recent addition to our menu. Isn't it more likely that sugar-based nutrition is the extreme and unhealthy condition?
There are problems for those who want to oppose a possible keto cancer cure. It has no barrier to entry, and anyone can try it. You don't need your doctor's permission. It's not some exotic drug that is difficult to obtain. It is not expensive. And if it works, then those survivors will be spreading their glad tidings all over the internet.
In other words, using a low carb diet to fight cancer could become an unstoppable movement. Progress may be slow-motion at the moment, but it will gather speed. The food and drug industries are right to be worried.