When Alix Hayden was diagnosed with brain cancer, she focused on learning about all possible options for treatment. Among the therapies that Alix chose: A high fat low carb ketogenic weight loss diet based on the theory that cancer cells generate energy for growth using sugar, reported News Talk 650 on March 10.

"For me, it wasn't really about alternative therapies, it was coming back to what I already knew which is that diet and lifestyle and your metabolism and your biochemistry really does influence your health," Hayden explained.

Ironically, her career has helped to fuel her knowledge of her treatment options. She works in cancer research at Phenomenome Discoveries in Saskatoon.

"I do work in cancer research and so that was a little bit of an irony for me and it was something that it took me a while to come back to and think about from an intellectual perspective."

The knowledge that diet, lifestyle and metabolism can help control the way that cancer grows caused Hayden to choose the low carb, high fat ketogenic diet.

Although it's similar to the Atkins weight loss plan, carbohydrates are more strictly restricted throughout traditional ketogenic diets. The approach is designed to cause your body to burn fat for fuel rather than use carbohydrates by putting your body into a state of ketosis.

Hayden also is blogging her reflections on battling cancer and using a ketogenic low carb diet. In her blogs, she notes that after reading "information and cookbooks about Paleo and Neolithic diets and Atkins diets," the ketogenic diet was most apt for her purpose.
I wanted, in a nutshell, was a diet high enough in fat and low enough in sugar that my body would be forced to adapt and use fat for energy. It is worth noting that I did not do this in cooperation with a dietitian or doctor.

I do have a background in biology and health research, and a lifelong interest in fitness and diet, so after doing my research, I felt the changes I was prepared to make were not extreme enough to require actual medical supervision.
And although ketogenic diets are often used for weight loss, they also have been successfully used as medical interventions for children with epilepsy: Discover how that use of ketogenic diets have changed lives by clicking here.

Hayden's goal in terms of her diet is to achieve the following ratios:
  • 65 percent of daily calories from fats
  • 30 percent of daily calories from protein
  • 5 percent from carbohydrate sources
The ratios are designed to produce the fat-burning transformation that typifies the results of ketosis in the body. The same plan has been used to treat conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity: Learn about the newest studies by clicking here.

The plan is designed to reverse the traditional food pyramid, which has a glucose-intense base as a result of the recommended levels of grains. (For that reason, neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter recommends ketogenic high fat low carb diets to reverse conditions ranging from diabetes to dementia: Read our interview with him about his "Grain Brain" book by clicking here.)

Hayden notes that researchers have found that "cancer cells are somewhat primitive from a metabolic perspective, and they love to use sugar for energy. When sugar is unavailable, other brain cells can convert to use ketones, but cancer cells aren't this agile, so the idea is that they start to "starve" for energy, slowing growth."

In addition to using the diet for cancer, Hayden has lost weight from the ketogenic low carb diet. She emphasizes the use of fats, crediting Gary Taubes for his research in that area, which he documented in "Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It" and "Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health."

Learn more about how physicians are using the high fat low carb diet to treat disease by clicking here. And get Dr. Eric Westman's insights into the use of the Atkins diet for weight loss by clicking here.