Ketogenic Diet for Cancer

Cancer is not a collection of unrelated diseases that each need to be treated individually. Cancer is one disease—a mitochondrial disease—and diseased mitochondria prefer glucose and glutamine for fuel.  Healthy cells with healthy mitochondria are flexible and can adapt to just about any fuel source, but not cancer cells.  In fact, the majority of cells in our body function best when they burn fat for energy.  Cancer cells are bad at burning fat, because fat burning requires respiration, which requires healthy mitochondria.”  Thomas Seyfried

This post details two testimonials~ Dr Fred Hatfield (prostate cancer), and Elaine Cantin (breast cancer)

Fred Hadfield

Dr Fred Hatfield is a man with a long list of accomplishments; they include weight-lifting champion, author, millionaire-businessman, and husband. But his greatest accomplishment of all has been healing from stage 4 prostate cancer that had spread to the bone.  “The doctors gave me three months to live because of widespread metastatic cancer in my skeletal structure,” he recalled.  He also heard that same prognosis from 3 different doctors. His wife Gloria recollects, “It’s a horrible, horrible feeling to have someone tell you that the person that you love only has three months to live and you’re not going to be with him any more,” she said.

It was early 2012 when Hatfield was given this devastating news.  As he prepared to die, he happened to hear about a metabolic diet therapy that might possibly help his body to heal from the cancer.  With nothing to lose, he says that he decided to give it a try and was shocked when it actually worked.  “The cancer was gone!” he exclaimed. “Completely. To this day there’s no trace of it. And it’s been over a year.”

Cancer cells love glucose and need it so badly that if you stop giving it to them they will literally starve to death- Although Fred says that it wasn’t easy, he stopped eating carbohydrates because they are easily converted into glucose by the body.  All cells are fueled by glucose, but when you deprive normal cells of glucose they will automatically switch over to using ketone bodies and an alternate fuel source. A defect in cancer cells prevents them from making this conversion so they die.  Dr Dominic D’Agostino explains it like this, “Your normal cells have the metabolic flexibility to adapt from using glucose to using ketone bodies, but cancer cells lack this metabolic flexibility. So we use the ketogenic diet  to exploit that defect.”  He adds.  “It just absolutely amazes me that medical science is just now finding this out.”

Hatfield’s cancer recovery was not a surprise to Dr. D’Agostino.  When he and his team of scientists at the University of South Florida removed carbohydrates from the diets of lab mice, they survived highly aggressive metastatic cancer even better than if treated with chemotherapy.  “We have dramatically increased survival with metabolic therapy. So we think it’s important to get this information out.”  This diet is not just successful with mice in the lab, Dr. D’Agostino has also seen similar results with people.  “I’ve been in correspondence with a number of people, at least a dozen over the last year-and-a-half to two years, and all of them are still alive, despite the odds. So this is very encouraging.”

ketoThe basics of the diet:  A ketogenic diet strictly limits carbohydrates, has a moderate amount of proteins, and a high amount of fat.  It not only helps you feel more satiated with less calories, but it also burns fat- both from your diet and from your own fat stores, therefore it can also help to facilitate weight loss.  The key to a ketogenic diet is to keep your carbs low~ usually as low as 45 grams per day, although some plans like the Cantin Ketogenic Diet (which is described below) will hold you to only 20 grams a day.  This is significantly lower than the average intake of 406 grams for a man eating a 2,500 calorie diet.

Fred’s wife Gloria says that the food on the ketogenic diet is in every grocery store and is pretty easy to prepare. “You can go online and find cook books. It’s clean eating… just very clean eating, none of the sugars, the salts, or the trash food.”

The ketogenic diet is made up of 75-80% healthy fats, 15-20% healthy proteins, 5-10% non-starchy vegetables

Eliminate the carbohydrates:  this includes all grains, bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereals, granola bars, crackers, muffins, baked goods and all processed foods; as well as starchy vegetables such as potatoes, winter squash, and corn; all sugars, soft drinks, candies, jams, syrups and desserts; as well as most fruits; and milk products (as lactose= dairy sugar)

Fats- will help you maintain your state of ketosis, where your body is burning fat as its main source of energy.  In addition, your ketogenic meal plan should include about 1 to 2 tbsp of extra fat, such as unrefined coconut oil, olive, or avocado oil with your meals. Coconut oil is a good choice because it contains medium-chain triglycerides that promote a ketogenic state.

  • Using fats in the menu– you can cook the vegetables for your morning omelet in coconut oil, olive, or avocado oil over your vegetable side dishes when they are done cooking, and make some homemade salad dressings them as well.
  • Other acceptable fat foods include: avocados, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, hazel nuts, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, hemp seeds, freshly ground flax seeds, and nut butters (except peanuts).
  • Fats to stay away from include:  “trans” fats, such as shortening or margarine, as well as oils that are hydrogenated and polyunsaturated oils such as corn, soy, canola, grape seed, sunflower and safflower because these oils will oxidize easily making them inflammatory to the body.
Proteins- A ketogenic diet should provide a moderate amount of protein at each of your meals. The best sources of protein are found in non-processed, whole cuts which are still in their natural form. This includes breast of chicken, fish fillet, fresh seafood, and eggs. On the other hand, high fat, “processed” meats like cold cuts and hot dogs are off-limits because often carbohydrates have been added to them as well as harmful additives and preservatives.  Those on a vegetarian diet can turn to organic tofu, nuts (such as almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, hazel nuts, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts, and nut butters); hemp seeds, and Plant Based Protein Shake Mix. The diet recommends Including 4 to 6 oz. of protein at each of your meals.

  • Protein intake: you could have a 2 or 3 egg and vegetable omelet with an avocado for breakfast, 4 oz of chicken breast with non-starchy vegetables that are drizzled with olive oil for lunch, and 4 oz. salmon fillet with a side of non-starchy vegetables that are drizzled with olive oil, and a salad with olive oil dressing at dinner.

Eat non-starchy Vegetables– You can obtain your limited amount of carbohydrates, between 20 and 45 grams a day, by eating a variety of non-starchy vegetables. These are among the most nutrient-dense foods which can provide you with all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber you need, while containing very little in carbohydrate content so they will help you stay in ketosis.  To do this you should eat 1 to 2 cups of non-starchy vegetables at each of your meals.

  • Using non-starchy vegetables in your daily menu: You can eat a vegetable omelet for breakfast, have a big salad of leafy greens topped with grilled chicken for your lunch, and accompany your dinner with a large salad and a side of vegetables.
More on the ketogenic diet- Some people are hesitant to try the ketogenic diet because they think that high-fat diets are bad for your health. But increasingly doctors are saying that as long as you are eating “natural” fats, this diet is actually good for you. Natural fats include extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and unrefined coconut oil. “Is cholesterol the major cause of heart disease?  Absolutely not.”” says cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra in his book ‘The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will Dr. Sinatra says that the real cause of heart disease is inflammation from eating too many carbohydrates and sugar. “We need to coach and empower our patients about the dangers of sugar,” he said. “Unfortunately, they’re not hearing that. They’re hearing the opposite which is about the dangers of fat. Fat is healthy for you, as long as you avoid trans fats.”  He says that by cutting back on carbohydrates and eating natural fats and proteins, you can improve your heart health and potentially wipe out cancer.

Fred’s story of healing cancer with a ketogenic diet

Elaine Cantin cures breast cancer with the Ketogenic Diet

Elaine Cantin heals breast cancer with a ketogenic diet

Elaine Cantin

When Elaine Cantin was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, doctors performed a lumpectomy but she says that the tumor grew back quickly.  The plan was to treat her aggressively with chemotherapy and radiation, but after witnessing several family members and friends pass away due to the harsh treatments Elaine decided to take her time and explore her options. Her research led her to the Ketogenic diet which she then modified to fit her own needs.

The standard ketogenic diet allows for about 45 grams of carbohydrates per day, but Elaine came up with her own version that limited the carbs to only 20 grams per day.   Her version of the diet also eliminated many common food allergens such as corn, soy, wheat, all dairy products (including butter and cheese), all red meats, genetically modified foods, alcohol, caffeine, and all chemical additives that are found in processed foods, as all of these can promote inflammation within the body.

Elaine took a variety of supplements to address her nutritional deficiencies. She also used some herbal remedies to detox her body, and also monitored her saliva pH in order to keep her body in an alkaline state. You will find more information on acid/alkaline balance and how to test pH at the bottom of the post.

Some things that you can help to increase alkalinity. 
  • Add 1 T apple cider vinegar added to drinking water
  • add the juice of one lemon or lime to your drinking water,
  • add barley grass or wheat grass powder to drinking water
  • use Himalayan sea salt daily
  • take a trace mineral supplement.

Her modified ketogenic diet had an immediate effect on her tumor. She says that people who follow her diet properly should begin to see results within 4 weeks.  Furthermore, you must continue on the diet until all of the cancer is gone and then continue on with a low carbohydrate maintenance diet to prevent it from coming back. You cannot go back to your old habits after having cancer. 

On April 15, 2013– Elaine reported that her cancer had returned and doctors told her that she had advanced breast cancer.  She attributes this setback to being under stress at work and not adhering to the strict diet.  She immediately went back onto her restrictive version of the ketogenic diet and by March 19, 2013, only a month later, her scans revealed that cancer was no longer detectable in her body.

Not only did Elaine cure breast cancer twice with her modified ketogenic diet, but she also used this same diet to treat her son’s Type 1 Diabetes and has been able to take him off of insulin.  She shares this information in her book The Cantin Ketogenic Diet For Cancer, Type 1 & 2 Diabetes, Epilepsy & Other Ailments.

Elaine shares her story of healing cancer with a ketogenic diet


What the diet looks like:

Pie-ChartDoing a 3 day water fast before starting this diet will help you enter ketosis much faster.

      • Count your carbs religiously, and keep them within the ketogenic range of 20-45 grams per day, although Elaine kept hers at 20 grams
      • Eat enough protein containing foods such as fish, chicken or eggs to satisfy yourself. A general measure would be 20% of your calories.
      • Monitor blood glucose, trying to maintain at 70 mg/dl (3.9 mmol/L)
      • Monitor blood ketones and try to get them up to 3.6
      • Eat an abundance of non-starchy vegetables such as:  Amarath, Artichokes, Asparagus, Bamboo Shoots, Bean Sprouts, Beans (Green), Beet Greens, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumber, Daikon, Eggplant, Fennel, Greens (some include Collard, Kale, Mustard, Turnip, Chicory, Endive, Escarole, Romaine, Spinach, Arugula, Radicchio, and Watercress), Hearts of palm, Jicama, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Mushrooms, Okra, Onions, Pea pods, Peppers, Radishes, Rutabaga, Sprouts, Sugar Snap Peas, Swiss Chard, Tomato, Turnips, Water Chestnuts, and Zucchini.
      • Lemons, limes, or a very small amount of berries, or other low carb fruit might fit into your meal plan. Keep in mind that 1/2 cup of fresh raspberries has 3.4 grams of net carbs, 1/2 cup of strawberries has 4.1 grams of net carbs, 1/2 cup of cranberries has 3.8 grams of net carbs, 1/2 cup of watermelon has 5.5 grams of net carbs, and 1/2 cup of cherries has 5.5 grams of net carbs.  Therefore using these fruits as a garnish for the meal only tends to keep the portions at the appropriate level.  However, if they throw you out of ketosis then you cannot consume them.
      • Include some sea vegetables (for iodine) and fresh herbs.
      • Fill in the rest of your calories with healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil. Fats can also be obtained by eating avocados and nuts such as macadamia, almonds, Brazil nuts, and pecans.
      • Additional fats can be obtained by supplementing with Cold-Pressed Black Seed Oil and MCT Oil

A typical meal plan might look like this: 

        • Breakfast:  green tea with 1 tbsp of MTC oil or coconut oil, 3 eggs, 1/2 avocado, and a sliced tomato that is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with black pepper.
        • Lunch:  a salad of greens and non-starchy vegetables topped with broiled fish or chicken, and a dressing made from 1 tbsp of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
        • Snacks:  macadamia nuts, almonds, and 1 tbsp of MTC oil.
        • Dinner:  whole cut of chicken or fish, with a side of  two non-starchy vegetables (such as sauteed spinach and broccoli) that are drizzled with olive oil, with a green salad topped with an olive oil and fresh lemon dressing. 
        • Nighttime beverage– Herbal tea with added MTC or coconut oil.

Recommended supplements for the Keto diet

  • The ketogenic diet may deplete selenium levels so eat a small handful of Brazil nuts twice per day to keep your levels up, or think of supplementing with Selenium.
  • Adequate magnesium levels are also important when on keto. Magnesium absorbs well through the skin, so one way to achieve this is by applying a topical magnesium oil, or through supplementation.
  • Supplementing with Potassium is also recommended.
  • Taking a quality, bio-available multivitamin and mineral supplement can help to fill nutritional shortfalls.
    • Testing for ketones

      Using a test strip to reach ketosis

      Using a test strip to reach ketosis

      You must keep track your carbohydrate intake carefully to ensure that you are staying within your target range.  It usually takes 48 hours after eliminating carbs for the body to reach a state of ketosis.

      Ketone Test Strips are available online or at pharmacies  (they are usually found  along with diabetic supplies), and they are used to test the ketone levels in your urine.  The strips have a small absorptive pad on the end which contains a chemical that will change from light pink to a deep purple color in response to the levels of ketones found in the urine.  The strip is then compared to the corresponding scale on the container. 

      Try to keep yourself testing in the higher levels for at least 7-10 days which should begin to break down tumors.  That 7-10 days begins after your ketones reach the high levels, not at the start of the low-carb diet, and then you must keep yourself in ketosis and continue on with the diet until all of the cancer is gone.   Then you should follow a low carbohydrate maintenance diet to prevent it from coming back. Once again,  you cannot go back to your old eating habits after having cancer.

      Acid/Alkaline balance

      Acidic foods add hydrogen molecules to the body therefore making your body more acidic, alkaline foods remove hydrogen molecules thus making your body more alkaline.  Processed foods, meat, sugar, grains, dairy, soda, coffee, and alcoholic beverages are all acidic.  Diets which are based on these foods will cause your body to lose precious minerals from your skeletal system in an attempt to re-balance the pH.  The standard American diet is highly acidic and this is why osteoporosis rates are so common in the US.  Acidic cells create an acidic body, and an acidic body is a precursor for disease. Some signs of excess acidity will include fatigue with general aches and pains. Acidosis is especially problematic because it interferes with normal cell function. An example of this is in the production of white blood cells which are essential for a strong immune system. Poor quality white blood cells are produced in acidic environments, making it easy for infections and diseases to take hold.

      You can test your saliva pH levels using  pH Testing Strips that are made for saliva and urine. These can be purchased from health food stores or online, and can be used to give you a measurement of what is going on inside of your body. The proper strip to purchase is a narrow or short range strip, which will measure from 5.0 to 9.5 or so.  Your goal is for your saliva pH to reach 7.2-7.4 in which cancer cells cannot thrive.  Elaine does not test urine because the ketogenic diet causes the body to release excess acids into the urine.  Read more Acid/ Alkaline Balance and how to test saliva pH.

      One way that she raised her pH was by drinking alkaline water.  You can find alkaline water in many health food stores and some grocery stores, or you can make water more alkaline by adding Organic Wheat Grass Powder to filtered water, or by adding the juice of 4 lemons along with their skins, 1/2 tsp of sea salt, and 1 tbsp of raw organic honey to one gallon of water and drinking this throughout the day.
  • Using a ketogenic diet for brain cancer

    The ketogenic diet is said to be a very effective diet for those with brain cancer.  This is because the brain lacks the ability to store its fuel, therefore it requires a continuous supply of glucose for its nourishment. The brain will utilize this glucose almost exclusively, and it will do so for 24 hours of every day and  it is virtually impossible to stop that supply of glucose to the brain.  The only exceptions would be during periods of prolonged starvation, or when there is a shortage of glucose for some other reason (think ketogenic diet here).  It is during those times that the brain must depend on ketone bodies as an alternative fuel source.

    The blood-brain barrier is a protective sheath that separates the brain from the rest of the body’s blood supply in order to protect the brain from exposure to various toxins. This barrier works so well that essential nutrients like essential fatty acids are not allowed to cross the blood-brain barrier either.   But there is one type of healthy fat that is able to cross this barrier to provide nourishment and fuel to the brain, and it is medium chain triglycerides (or MCTs).  MTC’s can be used to provide an alternative fuel source (ketones) for the brain, and as discussed earlier, cancer cells (with their damaged mitochondria) cannot use ketones, therefore they will starve.

    Eating more MCTs can increase the levels of ketones to the brain, but more importantly, these ketones also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can help to boost blood flow within the brain, as well as neutralize free radicals, slow down inflammation, and may also be helpful in reversing cancerous situations.   Coconut Oil is one of the top sources of MCTs, with a concentration of approximately 66%. Adding 2-4 tablespoons of coconut oil per day can offer some protection against neurological degeneration and may also help decrease inflammation of the brain.


    “Cancer is not a genetic disease it is a disease of the mitochondria.” Thomas Seyfried’s lecture on using metabolic therapies such as the ketogenic diet for the treatment of brain cancer.


    Dr Mercola interviews Dr D’Agostino on the ketogenic diet


    Additional Resources:


    If you have had your gallbladder removed you will need to supplement with pancreatic enzymes to help you break down proteins and fats.

Update:  Fred Hatfield passed away in May of 2017 from heart failure/ congestive heart failure.  I am not aware of any other details regarding his passing and therefore this post has been updated to reflect a healthier version of the ketogenic diet which eliminates red meats, all dairy products, chemical additives, etc  which can be inflammatory to the body and should not be part of a diet plan when one is attempting to heal from cancer. Additionally, one should consider taking the supplements that are listed above as they would be helpful for heart health as it is said that the ketogenic diet may deplete them, they include selenium, magnesium and potassium as well as taking a quality vitamin and mineral supplement.

Related Articles
Cancer is a wake up call which needs to be addressed on multiple fronts.  It is the result of an overly toxic body with an overwhelmed and collapsed immune system due to eating nutritionally depleted diets, exposure to toxins, and having poor lifestyle habits. Research an anticancer diet, adding supplements, detoxing the body, and making lifestyle changes so you can address a cancerous situation with a multifaceted approach.


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