On the origin of cancer cells – part 2

Fifty years of intense research had passed from the year he received his doctorate in chemistry in 1906 to the year when On the Origin of Cancer Cells was published in 1956. The uniquely exceptional scientist that was Professor Otto Warburg was nominated for the Nobel Prize by his scientific peers a total of 46 times between 1923 and 1931, with 13 of these nominations in that last year. And in 1931, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his seminal work on the essential role of iron in the biochemistry of cellular respiration published in 1928, and more generally for his work on the aerobic and anaerobic metabolic processes in cells. He was also, in that year, made director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Cell Physiology in Berlin (renamed Max Planck Society in 1948), and he maintained not only his post but also his scientific activity until his death in 1970 at the age of 86.


In fact, in 1969, just months before his passing, he published with one of his long-standing collaborators Dean Burk who translated the text (as he did for the 1956 paper), a revised and additionally prefaced version of the lecture he gave at the meeting of Novel Laureates at Lake Constance, Germany, in 1966 entitled The Prime Cause and Prevention of Cancer. The tone of this lecture, both for the first part of 1966 and the second of 1969, transpires frustration and even anger at the general lack of notice and acceptance of the crucial elements of the physiology of cancer cells that he had studied, understood, elucidated and clearly described in his publications over the course of more than 60 years of research.

Attempting to formulate a well-rounded and balanced explanation would require a lot of time and effort, not to mention a lot more words. But it is evident that then as now, financial interests have generally always been among the strongest driving forces both in research and in developing applications based on the understanding derived from this research. Hence, it is more than clear that eliminating the use of chemicals in all agricultural and industrial processes, stopping the consumption of simple and starchy carbohydrates and refined foods, and supplementing with iron, niacinamide and enzymes in general like Warburg recommended and did as a means to prevent and treat cancer is not only not at all lucrative, but it is highly financially detrimental to all chemical-based agricultural and industrial activities. I believe this is a most important part of the explanation, as it is for so many things.

What Warburg understood

Warburg had slowly, carefully, cautiously, diligently, painstakingly carried out experiment after experiment, trial after trial, studying every last detail of every aspect of the experimental process. He explained the cell’s most vital function, that of respiration, using oxygen to burn glucose or fats and produce energy, with a particular focus on the critical role of iron as a ‘respiratory enzyme’ carrying the oxygen molecule. He explained that the glucose molecule was ‘fermented’ (that it underwent glycolysis) in the cytosol of the cell, split into pyruvate molecules and fermented to lactic acid, and that this produced a small amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) without the need or use of oxygen. This process is termed anaerobic fermentation.

He explained that this process could either stop there, or be extended further by the pyruvate being taken up into mitochondria of the cell, and with the use of much oxygen, almost magically produce a lot more ATP without needing any additional glucose, but going through a series of steps and transformations relying primarily on clever recycling and reusing mechanisms of the niacin (B3) based molecule NAD (which stands for Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) within the mitochondria.

The ATP-generating process taking place inside the mitochondria was eventually described in detail by one of Warburg’s students, Krebs, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1953, and to which his name was given as the Krebs cycle also known as the citric acid cycle, as everyone who has studied some biology has heard (even if you never quite understood was this stuff was all about). Note that the Krebs cycle produces only 2 molecules of ATP, just as glycolysis does, and that it is what is called the electron transport chain, also taking place inside the mitochondria and using plenty of oxygen, that produces the bulk of the ATP with a potential of an additional 34 molecules, using products of the Krebs cycle, and in particular the 10 molecules of NADH.

Warburg was motivated to understand at the most fundamental level what was the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells. Naturally, as cancer was already a devastating disease in the 1930’s, he wasn’t the only scientist working and leading researchers in the study of the mysteries of cancer. He was, however, one of the most talented, dedicated and productive, together with the group of scientists he led at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute and those with whom he collaborated.

The first major step was made in showing that tumours fermented glucose much more intensely than healthy tissues that normally hardly do so at all. This fact—that tumours ferment a lot more glucose than healthy mature tissues even in the presence of oxygen—is known as the Warburg Effect and is universally studied in physiology, medicine and oncology (cancer-ology). This fact is so fundamental to cancer metabolism as well as cancer research that it is the basis of the PET scan imaging technique in which radioactively labelled glucose is used to make detailed images of active tumours and their tendrils in our tissues. The reason why it works is that cancer cells take up glucose from the bloodstream far more efficiently than normal cells.

What is unfortunate but not surprising given how myopic scientists and we all in general tend to be, is that this has been consistently overlooked as being a critical aspect of the genesis of cancer, as Warburg’s research implied, and instead has been interpreted as a consequence of the dysfunctional cellular metabolism of these mutated cells that is unrelated to the actual development of the cancer.

This is pretty absurd. After all, if cancer cells derive a substantial fraction of their energy from fermenting sugar, wouldn’t the absence of sufficient glucose naturally halt the growth and proliferation, and thus the development of tumours? And even more fundamentally, because glucose can only be transported inside the cell by the action of insulin, and it is, in fact, to insulin—not glucose per se—that cancer cells are incredibly more sensitive than healthy cells, wouldn’t an important drop in circulating insulin levels be detrimental or even lethal to cancer cells? Of course it would! They would be starved of the only fuel they can use, and as a consequence, eventually become incapable of sustaining their activity.

How was this measured?

The way it was done was to measure oxygen consumption and lactic acid production either with plenty of oxygen or without any, for tumours and different tissues under physiological conditions of pH and temperature. This is the perfect trick because fermentation outside the mitochondria does not require any oxygen, whereas energy production by glucose oxidation inside the mitochondria depends entirely on the presence of ample amounts of oxygen, In fact, even a minute drop in oxygen concentration will negatively affect mitochondrial ATP production. Cancer cells don’t care much if there is oxygen or not: they don’t use much and therefore don’t depend on it. They ferment glucose anaerobically no matter what because this is the only way they can generate enough energy to survive.

It was understood a number of years later that tumours are rather heterogenous both in terms of the types of cells and tissues they are derived from, and in the concentration of cancer cells: tumours can grow extremely fast or extremely slowly; they can have a large proportion of cancer cells in relation to normal cells or a small one; and since different specialised tissues require different conditions and function differently, it is an obvious consequence that tumours developing in different tissues will have different characteristics.

Hence, the next step necessitated the isolation of cancer cells in order to avoid the problem of dealing with heterogeneous mixtures of cancer and healthy cells cohabiting in a solid tumour. It was this that Warburg presented in the 1956 paper, and what a difference this would make! These are his opening paragraphs:

Our principal experimental object for the measurement of the metabolism of cancer cells is today no longer the tumour but the ascites cancer cells living free in the abdominal cavity, which are almost pure cultures of cancer cells with which one can work quantitatively as in chemical analysis. Formerly, it could be said of tumours, with their varying cancer cell content, that they ferret more strongly the more cancer cells they contain, but today we can determine the absolute fermentation values of the cancer cells and find such high values that we come very close to the fermentation values of wildly proliferating Torula yeasts.

What was formerly only qualitative has now become quantitative. What was formerly only probable has now become certain. The ear in which the fermentation of cancer cells or its importance could be disputed is over, and no one today can doubt that we understand the origin of cancer cells if we know how their large fermentation originates, or, to express it more fully, if we know how the damaged respiration and the excessive fermentation of the cancer cells originate.

This was the programme that in the end led to the discovery that cancer cells produced 2-3 times (that’s 200-300%) more lactic acid than the most solid tumours. This meant that even those most solid tumours must have been composed of only about 1/3 active cancer cells, and thus 2/3 normal and inactive cancer cells.

This is necessary because cancer cells cannot do the things needed for the tumour to survive and grow, like making new blood vessels for example; only healthy cells can carry out such specialised activities. The wildly fermenting and proliferating cancer cells are dependent on healthy cells in the tissue where they are growing in order to survive. This makes good sense given that cancer cells gradually devolve, generation after generation, losing their function, their specialisation and their differentiated nature, and eventually cannot do much of anything but ferment glucose and replicate. For this reason, they rely on the healthy cells to maintain a viable environment for them.

Oxygen is crucial

Recall a key observation that was made in comparing the metabolic activity of cancer cells to normal cells: as the cell transitions from functioning normally and deriving virtually 100% of its energy needs by burning glucose (or fat) with oxygen inside the mitochondria, towards the defective cancerous cellular metabolism characterised by fermenting glucose without oxygen outside the mitochondria, they derive progressively more energy from fermentation and less from oxidation, independently of the amount of oxygen available.

You see, if oxygen in the cell drops, then ATP concentration drops because the mitochondria need the oxygen to make ATP. Immediately, fermentation outside the mitochondria will begin or increase in order to make up the energy deficit. This is normal and happens in all healthy cells whenever this situation occurs. However, the drop in available oxygen will also trigger heart rate and breathing to increase in order to make more available. This will very quickly correct the problem, allowing the cell to stop fermenting and return to the much preferred condition of generating ATP though oxidation in the little power plants that are the mitochondria. Once again, this is perfectly normal and happens in healthy, well-functioning cells every time we exercise.

Those cultured cells with which they were working did not have the support of the entire organism that we have, exquisitely fine tuned and orchestrated by countless specialised hormones, sensor cells, worker enzymes, etc., to react instantly to any kind of chance of condition. As oxygen concentration dropped, fermentation increased. But if oxygen levels weren’t replenished quickly enough, the damage to cellular respiration was found to be irreversible. Now, fermentation continued no matter if oxygen levels were raised to saturation following the period of hypoxia.

Not only did fermentation continue under oxygen saturation, but it increased over time. This is what was meant by irreversible in terms of the damage to respiration sustained by the period of deficient oxygen levels, and this is what showed very clearly how a cell can transition and devolve from normal and healthy to cancerous. The same observations were made irrespective of the means that were used to damage respiration: arsenic, urethane, hydrogen sulphide and its derivatives, hydrocyanic acid, methylcholanthrene and whatever else, whether oxygen was deficient or prevented from reaching the cell by a respiratory poison, the result was irreversible damage that always eventually resulted in cancer cells if the damage wasn’t too severe, because otherwise the cell would not survive at all.

The unavoidable consequence of this was immediately understood: it is the cumulative effect of chronic exposure to small amounts of carcinogenic respiratory poisons or low-oxygen that causes and leads to cancer within our tissues. Very unfortunately for us, the number, spread and quantity of such carcinogens grows with each passing day. Is it any wonder then, that cancer rates are soaring? That it is a modern plague in our highly industrialised, pesti-cised, herbi-cised, fungus-ised and globally chemi-cised countries?

Measuring cancer cell metabolism

Quantitative measures of cellular activity and metabolism of ascites cancer cells were done keeping the cells in their natural medium, ascites serum, that was ‘adjusted’ physiologically once they were removed from the abdominal cavity. Adjusted how? By adding glucose to feed them, but also bicarbonate to neutralise the lactic acid, because the fermentation rate was so strong that without the bicarbonate the pH would drop too quickly and too drastically, causing fermentation to be brought to a standstill and soon after the cells to die.

Under physiological conditions of pH and temperature, in units of cubic mm for 1 mg of tissue (dry weight) per hour at 38 C, they found the following:

  • Oxygen consumption: 5 to 10,
  • Lactic acid production with oxygen saturation: 25 to 35, and
  • Lactic acid production without oxygen: 50 to 70.

Warburg and colleagues estimated that in anaerobic glucose fermentation, one mole of ATP was produced for every one mole of lactic acid. In contrast, even though the exact details were not yet known, measurements indicated that in cellular respiration, 7 moles of ATP could be produced for every mole of oxygen that was consumed. Based on these estimates, they compared ATP production form fermentation and oxidation in different types of cells.

Healthy liver and kidney cells showed identical metabolic values, consuming 15 cubic mm of oxygen per mg per hour, and in the absence of it, producing only 1 cubic mm of lactic acid. This means these cells were very poor at fermenting glucose; they could basically only derive energy from oxidation within the mitochondria. And this was made even more apparent by comparing, as they did, the amount of ATP that can be derived from fermentation or from oxidation. Using the 1:1 ratio of lactic acid to ATP under fermentation, and the 1:7 ratio of oxygen to ATP under oxidation, they found that these healthy liver and kidney cells could derive 105 (that’s 15 x 7) moles of ATP from oxidation versus only 1 from fermentation. As a fraction of the total, this is 105/106 or 99.1% from the normal mechanism reliant on the Krebs cycle and electron transport chain inside the mitochondria.

Next they looked at very young embryonic cells and found equal oxygen consumption of 15 cubic mm, but with a significantly greater—25 times greater—production of lactic acid when oxygen supply was cut. What this means is that these embryonic cells were much better adapted to surviving in anaerobic conditions without oxygen. This is quite natural given that the less evolved the cell, the more primitive and less specialised or differentiated, and therefore the closer to simpler cellular forms like yeasts. Doing the same as above in translating this metabolic function to compare the amount of ATP derived from either anaerobic or aerobic usage of glucose, we find that the same amount of 105 cubic mm of ATP from respiration, but in this case 25 moles of ATP from fermentation. And so, in this case the fraction is 105/130 or 80.8%, compared to the above 99.1% in normal liver and kidney cells.

The difference between these numbers and those calculated for the ascites cancer cells was large: they consumed less than half the oxygen, 7 cubic mm, but produced a whopping 60 cubic mm of lactic acid. That was 60 times more than the healthy mature liver/kidney cells! Here, ATP derived from respiration was therefore 49 (7 x 7) compared to 60 from fermentation. Hence, the fraction of the total that could be derived from oxidation was a mere 49/109 or 45%, implying that more than half the energy requirements could be derived from fermentation. This is how these quantitative measurements on the metabolism of healthy and cancer cells were done, and the result was indeed a remarkable finding.

What these results explained

So many things were understood or clarified through his efforts across these five long decades of intense research, and now with these latest results we understood different cell types have different propensity to become cancerous based solely on the cell’s inherent propensity towards fermentation: the higher the amount of ATP that could be derived from anaerobic fermentation, the easier it would be for the cell to become cancerous, and also the faster the tumour would grow.

The unfortunate but unavoidable implication is that embryos whose cells are all immature and therefore more primitive and naturally prone to greater fermentation, are the most susceptible to sustain damage to respiration whether from periods of low oxygen (think asthmatic mothers) or from exposure to respiratory poisons (think anything from pesticides, herbicides, food preservatives, to just supermarket household ‘cleaning’ and skin ‘care’ products, synthetic perfumes or substances they contain, and on and on…). Here again we can ask: is it any wonder that infantile cancer rates are also on a sharp rise?

We understand, for exactly the same reasoning, why cancer tumours in different tissues grow at different rates under the same physiological conditions, and easily explain why the increase in fermentation is gradual, requiring many cell divisions after the initial injury. As we know very well, it typically takes decades for adults to develop large cancer tumours that cause enough of an effect to get us to the hospital before it is diagnosed as such. Also, we know that tumours in or near the brain can develop and grow very quickly—within a year or two—whereas for the prostate they typically take an entire lifetime, sometimes completely unbeknownst to the host whose quality of life is not affected noticeably.

It was also understood why radiation therapy was generally effective at reducing the size of solid tumours by killing those already weakened and energy deficient cancer cells through a final blow to their injured and struggling mitochondria. By the same token, however, radiation will also always damage mitochondria of healthy cells, and thus set them on their way towards the process of devolution into dysfunctional fermenting cancer cells that the injury to respiration brings about.

And imagine this: 52 years following the publication of this landmark paper and a whole three quarters of a century after Warburg’s discovery of the fermentation of tumour cells even in the presence of oxygen, was published in the journal Nature a paper entitled The M2 splice isoform of pyruvate kinase is important for cancer metabolism and tumour growth. In this paper the authors describe how they were able to manipulate the expression of this enzyme in cancer cells, and doing so, decrease fermentation while increasing oxidation of glucose.

This enzyme, pyruvate kinase, is expressed in mammals in four different flavours (isoforms): L is expressed in liver cells, R in red blood cells, M1 is by far the most dominant and is expressed in most adult tissues, and M2, a variant of M1, is expressed during embryonic development. As it turns out, and as reported by two other groups of researchers in 2005 (refs 2 and 7 in the 2008 Nature paper), tumour tissues exclusively express the embryonic M2 form of pyruvate kinase.

Expressing these results as simply as we can, the situation appears to be as follows: once a glucose molecule enters the cell through one of the insulin-mediated entry ports, it is in the cytosol. There, through a series of 10 enzyme-mediated steps, it is split in two molecules of pyruvate. This requires 2 ATP but produces 4 ATP molecules; hence there is a net production of 2 ATP. At this stage pyruvate can either be converted to lactate which then turns to lactic acid, or to acetyl-CoA which is then transported to the mitochondria to enter the Krebs cycle and the electron transport chain. This transformation of pyruvate is performed by the enzyme that is the subject of these scientists’ investigation, pyruvate kinase. It would seem that the M1 form, the one that is active in healthy cells, takes pyruvate into acetyl-CoA and into the mitochondria, whereas the M2 form, the one that is expressed in embryos and cancer cells, takes it into lactic acid.

By some clever genetic manipulation, working with tumours in rats, they were able to switch off M2 expression and switch on M1 expression in cancer cells, and measured a decrease in lactic acid production and an increase in oxygen consumption that was associated with ATP production in the mitochondria through oxidative phosphorylation. This is the remarkable result that made the paper worthy of a publication in Nature magazine. And it is indeed amazing! This is why they write in the first paragraph that based on their research, the defect is not with the mitochondria as Warburg thought, but rather it is with the expression of the enzyme pyruvate kinase that goes from the healthy M1 to the embryonic M2 form. Why or how this happens is unknown.

This is indeed very encouraging! Just the idea of being able to force the expression of the healthy M1 and suppress the cancerous M2 form of pyruvate kinase is really amazing and has very important potential implications for cancer prevention and treatment. And this even if we don’t really yet know why or how it happens. But tell me, have you ever heard of this more than critically important result in cancer research on the news? Do you think your doctor has? Or his oncologist colleagues that cut, poison and burn cancer patients day in and day out?

Our basic cancer-fighting strategy?

What can we gather from this work that can help us not just understand Warburg’s research and his remarkable contribution to humanity though it, but also avoid cancer in this world where more than 1/3 of people currently succumb to it and where cancer rates keep rising every year?

Naturally, we want to minimise as much as possible our exposure to all manufactured chemicals, especially those confirmed as carcinogenic. We are all exposed to a greater or lesser extent through our being immersed in the environment in which we live, but we can go a long way by eating the cleanest, most natural and unprocessed food possible, drinking the cleanest water possible, using only natural cleaning and skin care products, and using regular or daily detoxification strategies such as taking sodium bicarbonate and magnesium chloride baths one to three times a week, drinking psyllium husks in water to cleanse the colon, and supplementing with iodine, chlorella and spirulina daily to flush out chlorine, fluorine, bromine and heavy metals like lead, mercury and arsenic on a continuous basis. These are, in a way, the simplest and easiest preventative measures we can take to reduce as much as we can our exposure to external sources of potentially carcinogenic and otherwise dangerous substances, as well as do what we can to flush them out to prevent accumulation in our tissues.

In consideration of the two fundamental characteristics of cancer cells—that they rely on glucose fermentation, and that they live and thrive in a milieu that his highly acidic and deprived of oxygen—it is just common sense to conclude that doing the opposite of what they need and prefer would be a good strategy. Doing the opposite means minimising glucose availability and especially insulin that is ultimately the agent responsible for transporting the glucose into the cell; remember that this is why cancer cells typically have 10 times the number of insulin receptors on their surface than normal cells. Doing the opposite also means preventing the accumulation of metabolic acids in their subsequent storage in tissues, preventing latent tissue acidosis, and ensuring a plentiful oxygen supply from a highly alkalising drinks, foods and lifestyle.

The first can be achieved by eliminating all simple and starchy carbohydrates, refined or not. Blood glucose levels will drop, and insulin levels will follow suit. This will shift the metabolism towards relying on fat as the primary source of cellular fuel throughout the day and night, day after day. The cool thing is that healthy cells function much more efficiently by burning fatty acids in the sense that they derive a lot more energy than they can do from burning glucose, even if the later is easier and enzymatically simpler: it is, after all, common to all living organisms, including the most primitive. The important difference is that all evolved and highly specialised animal cells can use fat, whereas primitive or devolved cancer cells simply cannot.

The second can be achieved by keeping the body hydrated and alkaline by drinking and eating to promote the alkalisation of the digestive tract, the blood, the other fluids of the body, and thus the tissues throughout: alkaline water and pressed lemon water, highly alkaline and alkalising freshly cold pressed green vegetables both juiced and whole, and magnesium chloride and sodium bicarbonate baths. Eating plenty of unrefined sea salt is also of the utmost importance in this. These are among the most important and effective means to first pull out and eliminate stored acids from the tissues and body, and then maintain alkalinity.

The only caveat is that digestion of concentrated protein in animal food, for example, require an acidic stomach for complete breakdown and digestion. Therefore,we should not combine alkalising water, lemon water or green juice when eating protein because this will cause poor digestion and absorption. Also, because protein is very important but also highly acid-forming, it is essential to not have excessive amounts, especially in a single serving, because this will cause excessive acidification and toxicity. Restrict your servings of animal protein to about 30-50 grams per serving, and try to restrict that to one main meal in the latter part of the day (afternoon or evening).

Pretty simple, aren’t they, these two strategies that we can draw from what we have learnt about cancer up to now. We will further explore cancer metabolism, prevention and treatment in the future, looking at methods that have been and continue to be successfully used to treat cancer patients and bring them back to health, as well as important nutrients and supplements with powerful cancer-fighting and health-promoting properties. But the fact is that these two basic points that address the most fundamental characteristics of cancer cells to ensure, on the one hand, that those that do emerge one way or another cannot sustain themselves or grow due to the lack of enough glucose and insulin for their needs, and on the other, cannot readily develop from being pushed towards fermentation because the environment of the body is everywhere alkaline and oxygen rich, are probably the most effective and important measures to grasp and apply in order to remain optimally healthy and cancer-free for as long as we are alive.

In closing

Before closing I want to briefly highlight that the vast majority of effective natural cancer healing treatments are based to a greater or lesser extent on the understanding of cancer as I have presented it in this and the previous article on the subject. However, there is a truly wide range of successful treatments that are used out there in various specialised cancer treatment centres. One important point to make in regards to the consumption of simple sugars from sweet root vegetables such as carrots and beets or fruit is that several treatment protocols include these and in sometimes large quantities still with great success in overcoming cancers of various kinds. This shows us that there is definitely more to preventing and treating cancer than just eliminating simple sugars.

There is lot of tremendously interesting material to explore about cancer, a disease that has been an important cause of suffering for at least a century. A lot of this exploration will be of historical research, experiments and discoveries that either have escaped the attention of the masses and medical establishment, or been actively suppressed by various agencies and individuals intent on nurturing as substantial population of ailing people for the purpose of profiting from the treatments they would require.

As awful as this may seem, it is unfortunately the sad truth. And even more unfortunately, this is not only historical as in the case of this well documented 1921 action plan by the US government, FDA and AMA for an influenza vaccination campaign to quickly and effectively spread disease across the country and greatly stimulate the need for medical attention and case as a means to generate profits from the associated expenses, but this continues to this day. The essential conclusion to draw from this is that it is we who must care for ourselves, our children, our family members, and our friends. And to do this, it is again we who must first learn and then teach our children and each other how to best do it. This is what I strive to do and what I strive to share with you.

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23 thoughts on “On the origin of cancer cells – part 2

  1. Thank you for your blog. We have a unique situation I wonder if you could offer some insight to.I have read so much over the last few years that it all seems to float around in a hazy concoction of competing information and I am not sure which direction to go in. We flip flop back and forth frequently which isn’t much of a plan! 3 years ago myself and my husband had just turned 30, we were preparing to move, his career was great, we were the proud parents of two healthy little boys and expecting a little girl when his dizzy spells couldn’t be ignored any longer. He was healthy, strong, fit, ate “well” (according to conventional dietary advice) he had never smoked, drank alcohol or even coffee in his life. And yet…he had a tumor the size of a grapefruit growing in his colon. We didn’t have time to research, we were terrified so we listened to his oncologist and he had 3 surgeries and 12 rounds of chemotherapy immediately. Thankfully we also saw a natural oncologist who put him on support supplements to minimize damage to his liver and kidneys and weekly IV vitamin C treatments. He healed from all obvious chemo side effects and within a year he seemed to be recovered. He just received his third clear CAT scan. But waiting for those results was more than I could bare this time. The stress and fear is totally overwhelming BECAUSE we don’t know what we are doing! I feel like if he could develop stage 3C colon cancer in his TWENTIES…how are we going to keep him health for decades more! We don’t have a plan! (The dietitian at the oncology unit simply told him to take a multivitimin and drink Ensure!…and maybe sprinkle sugar on his steak to up his calories…really I couldn’t even make that up!). We are now expecting our forth child and through the stress of the last three years I am suffering from adrenal fatigue, a very difficult pregnancy, a significant weight gain (70 pounds!) and feel very overwhelmed and desperate at wanting to keep now, not only my husband, but myself healthy …there are 4 great kids who deserve this, not to mention shared genetics that we do not want to turn on! My question for you is what would you do if this was your wife’s history? Your child’s genetics? Can you point me in the right direction? I am continuing to read through gratefully through your blog archives.


  2. I also wonder if you could offer me some insight into the risks benefits of following a ketogenic diet while breastfeeding? Breastfed babies are naturally in a ketogenic state I believe so baby should be okay if I too switch to burning fat while breastfeeding? I wonder about toxin exposure from my released fat stores into baby?


    • Hi Jennifer:

      Thank you for the trust you show in asking for my advice. I would like you to finish reading through the blog’s archive of articles because you will encounter a lot of information relevant to the questions and concerns you have. After doing this, if you have further questions, then I will run to them more specifically. In addition, I plan to write a comprehensive guide to cancer-free living when I find the time.

      The fact is that everything which promotes optimal biochemical and metabolic health is always, by definition, anti-cancer, anti-heart disease, anti-diabetes, anti-arthritis, anti-Alzheimer’s, etc because all these are manifestation of unbalanced biochemistry, and dysfunctional metabolism and physiology. Therefore, the Roadmap to Optimal Health can be used as a universal guideline for everyone, and through that, have the security of knowing that following such a regime for life will not only prevent the development of any degenerative or chronic disease, but also correct deficiencies and promote healing of an already diseased body, no matter what the condition is and no matter how old the person may be.

      About living in nutritional ketosis when pregnant and breast feeding is exactly what all of our human ancestry has always done for millions of years before settling as agrarians about 8000 years ago. It is, for this reason, the natural state in which all humans should always be. Beyond that dispelling of fears, it is certainly more compelling to realise that maintaining nutritional ketosis with plenty of B12, A, D3, K2, iodine, iron and zinc, is extremely beneficial for the developing baby, especially for the brain and nervous system, because all deficiencies are transmitted and all metabolic tendencies as well. The only thing that you should be cautious about is the transition, during which, as you mention, there is a detoxification that takes place, and we wouldn’t want the toxins to be transferred to the baby. But if you do not do it too radically, it should be perfectly fine.

      The nutritional profile of the milk is entirely dependant on the mother’s diet. Are you pregnant or breastfeeding right now?


  3. Thank you so much for your in depth response. I really appreciate your time. I have read through the majority of your posts now and especially found your post on the specific advice to your friend beneficial in terms of what a whole life style change looks like. I have learned about bits and pieces of the information you have provided over the last couple of years through different courses and experts we have sought out but was never able to fully put it all together because of the extensive competing information we are also bombarded with. This is the first place I have found that has really put it all together comprehensively. You have answered my questions as I continued reading. Thank you. I have to move away from the mindset that “we were healthy!” when my husbands Cancer happened because while conventional wisdom tells us that a low fat, high complex carb diet is “healthy” we now know otherwise. In terms of breastfeeding, I am currently 8 months pregnant and really need to make my health a priority when the baby is born. It is reassuring to know that what I suspected, in terms of ketosis I am relieved to hear that is a natural state for a breastfeeding woman to be in. I have read from a few women who purposely ended their ketosis diet when pregnant and I was curious as to why. I suspect it was just personal choice in the end which is why the reasons were not elaborated. In the future I would love to read more about how your family incorporates this way of eating into events that are unavoidable and I always struggle with (people really seem to dislike when you don’t share in the same food or challenge what they do simply by doing something different) like family gatherings, holidays. I am curious about what your son ate as a younger child, or any unique nutritional needs a child may have that is exceptional to the advice you have given for adults and why you don’t eat meat (as you mentioned in your air plane diabetic meal post but I could not find any further explanation on). I have a 7 year old son who is asthmatic and has anaphylactic peanut and egg allergies as well as a severe canine protein allergy. I firmly believe he can heal from these and have not given up this hope for him.

    Gratefully, Jennifer


    • Dear Jennifer,

      I’m very happy to hear you find the contents of the blog interesting and useful. I much prefer writing to educate and inform readers than to share personal stories: there’s way too much of the latter on the web already, and it’s really not my style. But I understand the importance of some personal inspirational advice, so I try to offer a little. Anyway, for children, it has to be strictly imposed until it becomes a habit, and eventually, when they are old enough, they begin to understand the reasons and actually see the immense difference it makes for them when they look around at their school friends. This started taking place already several years ago with our son, and am now confident that he will know how to take good care of himself when he leaves home for university in a couple of years.

      About your concerns with cancer, I believe that you now have a much clearer picture of the wider landscape and will consequently have the confidence in the choices you will make for your family and husband’s sake. I’m glad you stumbled upon this site for your coming baby, who will without any doubt be as healthy and strong as can be. For your 7 year old, I am also confident that once you have eliminated all the allergens (wheat, dairy and eggs) and inflammatory foods and drinks (sugars and starches) from his diet; set him smoothly and naturally into nutrimental ketosis on a high coconut fat, green and alkaline diet, with some grass fed meat; and corrected the nutritional deficiencies he may have with supplements, that the asthma and allergies will clear up.

      As for the social and family events, there is no compromise, at least for me. My wife and son are much more lenient in this respect, but are also slowly getting stronger and more confident in realising that every little thing we put in our mouth affects only us for now and for ever, and therefore cannot be taken lightly. In practice, the solution I’ve found for social settings is very easy: stick to salads and veggies, nuts and seeds, and that’s it. Unless there is wild fish or grass-fed meat. (I was vegetarian for 20 years until a few years ago. I now realise it was one of the gravest mistakes of my life. We humans don’t need much meat and animal products, but it is absolutely essential to have some. There is no way around that at all.) Otherwise, the only desserts I have are those that I make myself without sugar, and objectively speaking, they are all really good and universally appreciated, even by those who have no idea how they are made (examples are given in the posts on ways to use coconut milk, and coconut balls, even if I’ve refined my recipes further since then: everyone loves my ice creams and puddings as well as my little coconut balls).

      I will let you get on your way with this new way of feeding and nourishing yourself and your family (the roadmap is a good guide), and hope you will keep me posted with good news or questions you may have along the way.


      • Hi Guillaume!
        Sorry I was so SHOCKED by the episode and in so much haste to share it that I forgot to even sign my post. It’s Toni from Toronto. I point to this part only because the documentary is in 9 parts, and each day starting Oct. 13th one part is made available to watch (so today will be Part 3 of 9). Everybody should see this and pass along to all friends and family – the sooner, the better!


      • It is indeed shocking to learn these kinds of truths. I have grown somewhat more accustomed over the years, but it still never ceases to amaze and shock. (I knew it was you because I saw your little goat gravatar.)


      • There is mention of another, earlier documentary from last year, “The Quest For the Cures”. I’m going to try to locate that one, too. And also – I’m looking forward to yet another documentary titled “MegaVitamin Man”, by Andrew Saul, PhD (his book “Orthomolecular Medicine For Everyone” co-written with Dr. Abram Hoffer, MD), which should be out of production very soon.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello again, Can you point me in any sources of information I can be looking at for childrens nutrition. I have read Dr. Fuhrmans books for childrens diets which I found to be the most informative so far but he advocates a heavier carb diet and vegetarian diet. I am struggling to find good resources…most even more informed or current sources I have found
    advise higher carbs and dairy. I am looking for examples of a well balanced high fat and vegetable diet outside of Paleo (which is the closest I can find to label what you have spoken about). Should children go in and out of Ketosis- in that I wonder if some starches would be okay but then they would be bouncing back between burning glucose and ketones and I know for me unless I stay 100% in ketosis then I feel awful. I am looking forward to a post about this topic from you when you can. Additionally I have lost 100% of my milk and my son is only 4 months old. I have had to re introduce starches and fruit to even be able to pump a little (only pumping 2 ounces PER DAY when in ketosis, he eats 30 ounces). I had my thyroid and blood checked and everything was fine except I was very low in iron. I am taking supplements now but otherwise any thoughts on why this suddenly happened would be appreciated. Thank you again ! Jenn


    • Hi Jenn:

      1) food for kids: Joel Fuhrman advocates a mostly plant-based, low fat diet; for this, I think he’s off the mark. Of course, like everyone with a head of their shoulders, he advocates avoiding processed and sugary foods. But this is a no-brainer. Fundamentally though, he doesn’t understand/appreciate the extreme importance of fat, and especially saturated fats, in optimal health. But we do, so we’re ok :)

      Nutritional ketosis with a diet such as the one I recommend, which is high in saturated fat from coconut oil and meat, with plenty but not too much high quality animal protein, and high in all that is green and leafy, with a special importance given to green juices, is the best way to ensure an ideal development of the brain, organs, metabolism, and balanced mind and behaviour, especially with the addition of a few key supplements that I’ve mentioned to you before (A,D,K2,C,Mg,I). If the child is not epileptic or suffering from similar seizures, there is no problem in having some carbs. For example, we give fruit to my son (one piece per day during the week), even if we don’t have any other than berries (with some exception sometimes, of course). I would never give them grains, especially not refined grain products and sweets (obviously), but carrots, sweet potatoes and squash are fine to have.

      If one is not healing from some kind of illness or trying to control and minimise the negative expressions of a disease condition, then it is not so essential to remain in nutritional ketosis: it is certain that most of our ancestors in the last 30 thousand years, spent most of their time in ketosis because they derived most of their calories from animals. But they necessarily went in and out of it depending on what they had to eat. We are naturally metabolically flexible in this way, especially when we are children and spend much time running around each day (unlike our generally sedentary adult lifestyle for which is it better to stay in ketosis). So, this metabolic flexibility has to be embraced, but not overused or abused. One of the best resources for dietary advice and for the science behind these recommendations is the website of the Weston A Price foundation.

      2) Mother’s milk: It is hard to say. I would like to see the values of your blood markers for the tests I recommend (here) as comprehensive if it is possible for you have have them done. Unfortunately, normal regular blood tests are very minimal and do not contain the most important markers of health and metabolic function. Iron deficiency is very serious as iron is the most important element in cellular respiration on which everything in our organism depends. The supplement you should take to correct this is iron bisglycinate (we take Thorne’s). Otherwise, can you described to me as accurately as you can what you eat and drink on a typical day.


      • I will look at the Weston A Price foundation information. I am especially interested in his negative findings on low fat vegetarian diets in pregnant women as my middle son was speech delayed, and had dental issues to the point of surgery and he was my only vegan pregnancy….thanks to Dr. Furhmans advice. A big mistake in hindsight. I am glad to hear you say NO grains for children, I suppose that was the clarification I was looking for, but resistant to as grains are a large part of their diet, coupled with fruit and it will be a transition for sure. Thank you for the supplements again, I could not find your response to my last question.
        Now you mentioned that unless someone has a medical condition that constant nutritional ketosis is not necessary. My husband is three years out of colon cancer at age 30 (stage 3C, 3 surgeries and 12 rounds of chemo) he has recently started to let his health slide a bit I have noticed. He has stopped working out, gained 30 pounds and reverted to a diet high in sugars and grains again. I wonder if for someone like him this state would be beneficial- certainly he is going to get back on track. He does not have overt side effects from chemotherapy (he sought naturopathic support at the same time which minimized the side effects but his body has a lot of healing to do to keep cancer cells from growing. It worries me greatly that he has become relaxed in regard to his continued health.

        I have some private blood work coming up to cover what my GP did not give me including a cortisol test as my ND suspected that my adrenals might be the issue.

        I am taking the brand of Iron that you recommended as well as b12 drops. My iron levels are in the anemic range currently.
        In a day I drink one vega drink in the morning, a salad and chicken or eggs for lunch, a second vega drink in the afternoon and meat and vegetables for dinner, I use butter and coconut oil on the vegetables. I occasionally have a piece of fruit. 65 pound total weight loss since May.

        Thank you again for all of your help!


      • For Dr Fuhrman’s advice for a low fat and vegan diet, as you have seen from personal experience, it is probably the worst thing we can do for our health and for our developing children (both unborn and growing up). It is very sad indeed that your son has to live with the effects of this on his brain and teeth. For your husband, my opinion is that it is a matter of life or death for him that he switches to the regime I recommend for everyone. But each one of us must choose what we do and, in awareness or ignorance, live with the consequences. If he doesn’t, my guess is that in a few years’ time, he will have another more serious and more widespread renewed cancer which he will probably not survive. For your iron, another reader recommended a brand of heme iron that is fully absorbed, which you might want to look for. In addition, you should really take B12 injections for a few months together with the iron supplementation. Finally, your diet sounds fine. I would recommend adding half a can of full fat coconut milk to the morning and to the afternoon Vega shakes (1 can per day): you need to make sure you have lots of saturated fat, especially for your milk to be rich in lauric acid. If you could buy an Omega 8006 and start juicing green veggies for breakfast, that would be excellent for you and the rest of the family. Good job for the 65 lbs lost! The body will just keep burning up all the excess fat reserves until metabolic and hormonal balance has been reached. If you could do some weight training, that would be excellent for building muscle and strong bones, something that is very important to do for women past the child bearing years because otherwise both muscle and bone mass is lost quite quickly, as it is deemed unneeded and unnecessary (from the evolutionary standpoint).


  5. Thank you for your thoughts. It has been a frustrating road to health as I have done things that I really thought were the best and ideal way of being (ie- veganism) only to find out that I caused very negative health effects in my young son. When we know better however, we can do better which is why I continue to move forward. What you described is my fear for my husband. I feel he lives in a sense of denial and also does not have the vivid memories of that time like I do (his short term memory due to chemo at that time was affected and he does not remember most of it or the trauma of the experience). I however do. I see no choice but to take control of everyones diet and lifestyle in my family because I am the one they look to and I know we are living a second chance. I do not believe he will get a third and I will have ownership in that when our children ask me if I had done everything I could to keep their father well. I need to be able to say yes. I will put all of your suggestions and advice into practice this week (for him and I!) and update you on the positive results as they come. Thank you again. I am deeply grateful for the direction you have pointed us in. I was feeling very lost before I found your site.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Guillaume,

    Just finally having been able to finish reading this 2 part series, I have some doubts related to going back to Warburg. There have apparently been other scholarly articles from people who took issue with some of Warburg’s conclusions:


    I’ve only scratched the surface of what has been written, and probably can’t dig much deeper, and certainly you will have read more of these conflicting viewpoints than I. What is your analysis of the differing opinions? Some, at least, like the above article, seem to offer similar challenges to Warburg’s theory as you observed in the second part of your article On the Origin of Cancer: “One important point to make in regards to the consumption of simple sugars from sweet root vegetables such as carrots and beets or fruit is that several treatment protocols include these and in sometimes large quantities still with great success in overcoming cancers of various kinds. This shows us that there is definitely more to preventing and treating cancer than just eliminating simple sugars.”

    My mother had used the Gerson therapy for over a year and a half before she died (bone cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, skin cancer, and who knows what else she had!), so I wondered about this myself. How is it that in many cases (not hers) with juicing snd detox regimens like Gerson’s, tumors can be reduced or eliminated completely in the presence of all that dietary sugar? There must be something else at work there, as you observe. The enzyme theory seems plausible. So therefore should the recommendation not be to eat the widest possible variety of healthy vegetables, without regard for their sugar content? In other words, by focussing on sugar-avoidance, might we not be in fact avoiding a bunch of healthful foods which contain other keys to optimal health that are not yet understood?

    Good stuff! Thank you for your thought-provoking writing!


    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Eric, about Warburg’s research, if you are interested in reading about its reproducibility with modern techniques and measurement equipment, then you should get Cancer as a Metabolic Disease (https://www.amazon.com/Cancer-Metabolic-Disease-Management-Prevention/dp/0470584920).

    About your mom, the Gerson method, the fact that some people cure their cancers by drinking carrot juice, while others do it with a ketogenic diet, while others with mega enzyme therapy, is indeed hard to understand and explain. I’m not there yet ;) but hoping to get there some day. What is definitely clear is that cancer cells, as Warburg pointed out, all work in the same way by fermenting glucose. Some cancers, like breast cancer, can often be completely cured simply by supplementing with iodine and doing nothing else (e.g., Dr. Browstein). Brain cancers are the most glucose-sensitive, and therefore, can be treated very effectively by water-fasting and fat-fasting (e.g., Dr Seyfried).

    Other generalities, also as Warburg pointed out, is that all cancers cells need a highly acidic environment, and simply cannot survive in an oxygen-rich alkaline environment. Hence sodium bicarbonate has been very effectively to treat and cure cancers (e.g., Dr. Sircus). And, as mentioned above, Dr Gonzalez from NYC used enzymes to destroy tumours and cured tons of people from various cancers, also using various diets based on the person and the cancer. So, there are lots of details, but there are also lots of commonalities. We have to keep exploring, digging deeper to further understandings and dispel misunderstandings, and throughout, keep an open mind while remaining critical.



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