Fighting Cancer and Other Diseases Using the Ketogenic Diet with Dr Dominic D’Agostino

Even the most resilient and strongest individuals are not safe from the bone-deep exhaustion that cancer can bring. Treatment protocols will vary depending on a patient’s condition, but they may cause fatigue. While it takes an average of 17 years for medical research to reach clinical practice, it is beyond doubt that there are now better ways to treat cancer.

Did you know there is now emerging evidence that a ketogenic diet combined with standard cancer treatment may help patients in fighting cancer? We often hear about the ketogenic diet from the fitness industry, but it’s more than just for managing weight, glucose and insulin levels. Research shows it can also starve cancer cells and eventually kill them off! 

In this episode, Dr Dominic D’Agostino discusses how the ketogenic diet has evolved and how we can adopt a proper ratio for our lifestyle. He also shares the press-pulse control to fight cancer, which includes utilising ketosis, Vitamin C and oxygen. Don’t wait until you’re diagnosed with cancer to become more mindful of your lifestyle and nutrition! Prevention is key if you want to live healthier.

If you want to learn more about ways to fight cancer and several other diseases through the ketogenic diet, then this episode is for you!

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Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Understand how exogenous ketones and the ketogenic diet can help make your cells more resilient and better at fighting cancer!
  2. Remember that we need to prioritise preventing diseases. Starting early is key. 
  3. Learn how cancer cells function and how to kill them without suffering from side effects common from drugs.

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Episode Highlights

[03:40] Dr Dom’s Background

Dr Dom Agostino majored in nutrition science and biology, then studied neuroscience for his PhD. Specifically, he studied the neural control of our physiology through electrophysiology. This includes respiratory and cardiovascular controls.

  • His research interests then led him to study diving physiology and hyperbaric technologies.

For over 15 years, Dr Dom has been developing hyperbaric technologies and nutritional and supplemental therapies to protect people from high hyperbaric conditions. 

[06:14] How to Make Cells More Resilient

Dr Dom Agostino shares that electrophysiology in hyperbaric chambers can directly measure neurons in response to the graded levels of oxygen in the chamber. Oxygen can provide a therapeutic effect, but too much of it can lead to a seizure (oxygen toxicity).

  • His research on measuring the cellular response on the level of mitochondria and plasma membrane led him to study how to control the metabolic states of the cell to make them more resilient to extreme environments. 

Dr Dom worked with the NAVY Seal divers and focused on treatments such as lactate, glucose and ketones to enhance cell metabolic states and reduce seizures. Ketones can not only make cells more resilient but also help maintain resting membrane potential and have less oxidative stress.

[12:07] How the Ketogenic Diet has Evolved 

  • The ketogenic diet is celebrating its 100th year anniversary in clinical use. It started as a standard of care for drug-resistant epilepsy in children. Anti-epileptic drugs have been found to delay learning development in kids, while the diet can enhance development.

The ketogenic diet has also evolved over the years. The modified Atkins diet, or MADD, utilises a 20–25% protein diet. The quantity and type of fat are important when considering a ketogenic diet. Listen to the full episode with Dr Dom to learn more! 

Over the years, research on the ketogenic diet and its applications have surged. Now, Dom is working with the Navy to not only use ketones to block seizures, but to also enhance performance.

[18:56] What is the Ketogenic Diet for?  

  • There are two primary uses for the ketogenic diet: life-saving and prevention. 
  • If your intent is to manage seizure disorders, neurological disorders, cancers, and other disorders, you need to implement a ketogenic diet continuously. Using the ketogenic diet for prevention can be for controlling glucose and insulin levels.
  • It’s better to prevent disorders and diseases by getting ahead of the problem. For example, those who are pre-diabetic should start monitoring their glucose levels and learn how to eat better to avoid becoming diabetic.

[23:13] Prioritise Prevention

  • Diabetes can be the gateway to a host of other diseases. Prevention is key. The ketogenic diet can be very effective in controlling your glucose and insulin levels. 
  • When tracking your glucose levels, don’t focus on single time points. Instead, observe how the levels change over time.
  • Understand the dynamic of glucose in your body. You can correlate them with changes in inflammatory markers. 
  • You can check whether you’re in ketosis through biomarkers that can be measured through breath, blood or urine ketones.

[27:26] How to Adopt the Ketogenic Diet to Your Lifestyle

  • The ketogenic diet is four parts fat and one part combination of protein and carbohydrates. This means around 90% fat, 8 to 10% protein, and around 10 grams of fibrous carbohydrates. This is the recommended diet used for pediatric epilepsy. 
  • You can also modify the diet if you find it too strict and difficult to follow. Ketones have been found to be anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and have epigenetic effects.

[29:23] Managing Cancer Through the Ketogenic Diet 

  • It’s not enough to cut down on sugar. Cancer cells are metabolically flexible and can use other sources like glutamine, fatty acids, and more. Studies show that if you take away glucose from cancer cells and give them ketones, they will eventually die. 
  • Cancer patients will experience the Warburg effect, where cells revert to a primitive form of energy metabolism by directing biomolecules to anabolic processes. However, this also allows cancer cells to grow, divide and expand. 
  • Treating cancer can be done by blocking DNA replication like chemotherapy or by energy restriction. While you cannot fast forever, you can achieve the fasting state through a ketogenic diet.

[38:33] Utilise Autophagy to Fight Cancer Cells 

  • Cancer cells naturally have higher energy demand than healthy cells. When you restrict energy, you can stimulate autophagy, slowing down tumour growth and eventually killing it. 
  • There may be forms of cancer that can capitalise on autophagy, but this is not common.  

[43:55] How to Use Vitamin C to Fight Cancer

  • Glucose monitors tend to also detect Vitamin C as blood sugar since they are very similar. However, ascorbic acid can be antagonistic to glucose by using the same transporter. 
  • When you have high physiological levels of Vitamin C, you can impair glucose metabolism in cancer cells.  
  • Vitamin C can also help create the Fenton Effect, where it further increases oxidative stress in tumours. 

[49:42] How Much Oxygen Is Enough to Fight Cancer? 

Cancer cells can die when exposed to a rise in oxygen. Dr Dom shares that his study used a 2.5 atmosphere of oxygen given for 60 minutes three days a week. This was done using a soft-shell chamber. 

Lower levels of oxygen can still be beneficial for cell production. Dr Dom Agostino recommends taking Vitamin C on the same day as getting hyperbaric oxygen therapy. 

[55:29] What to Remember When You Want to Fight Cancer

  • Nutrition should be the core of general health and cancer therapy. Restrict sugar, optimise glycemic control and suppress insulin. 
  • Do intermittent fasting if you can. If you’re overweight, be more aggressive with fasting and the ketogenic diet. If you’re underweight, make sure you have enough protein and nutrients.

Dr Dom Agostino recommends foods like eggs, sardines, raw vegetables like salads, olive oil, nuts and non-glycemic fibrous carbohydrates. He also recommends taking exogenous ketones to further boost ketosis. 

[1:02:53] Types of Exogenous Ketones  

  • MCT is useful for fat and ketone. You can also use ketone salts which are bound to electrolytes like sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium. 
  • Racemic compounds optimise signalling and delivery pathways. You don’t want spikes in your glucose and ketones. 

Listen to the full episode with Dr Dom to learn more!

[1:09:08] Dr Dom’s Recommendations to Fight Cancer

Dr Dom has always been interested in fitness. Not only is he interested in the science of nutrition, but he also applies it to himself. Our bodies can withstand fasting. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and you’ll get more benefits. 

Remember to take care of your body. 

7 Powerful Quotes

‘Oxygen is a stimulant to the brain, and if we get too high, it can actually trigger a seizure.’

‘...some of the anti-epileptic drugs, if they are given to kids, they can cause developmental delays. Whereas if you administer a ketogenic diet, it actually enhances learning and memory.’

‘We believe that it's very important if you're pre-diabetic, to get different wearable technologies that will tell you and coach you how to eat so you don't become diabetic.’

‘Warburg hypothesized that the cells were producing, were fermenting because the mitochondria were damaged, and they were defaulting to a more primitive form of energy production.’

‘The ketogenic diet is mimicking fasting and I think that the suppression of the hormone insulin, the reduction in glucose availability, and the elevation of ketones are all contributing to the anti-cancer effect.’

‘...nutrition is really about the patient's health and they should not be advised to just eat anything to gain weight.’

‘I think it's important to push the limit as well. I mean, I was always interested in fitness, and working out, strength training has been a form of self-medication.’

Resources

About Dr Dom

Dr Dominic D’Agostino is currently an associate professor with tenure at the University of South Florida where he teaches in the Morsani College of Medicine and the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology. He focuses on topics such as neuropharmacology, medical biochemistry, physiology, neuroscience, and neuropharmacology. He is also a research scientist at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) where he researches optimization of safety, health, and resilience of astronauts and warfighters.

Over the last decade, Dr Dom Agostino and his lab have been focused on understanding the ketogenic diet and ketone supplementation for anticonvulsant and neuroprotective benefits. He was also a research investigator and crew member on NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operation (NEEMO 22) and has an interest in ways to enhance resilience in extreme environments. Learn more about Dr Dom’s work on his website

You can also connect with Dr Dom on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

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