Carbs and Cancer

Carbohydrates Might Cause Cancer

Do Carbohydrates Cause Cancer?

In general, depriving your body of calories is good for your health. While binge dieting usually fails and results in hormonal changes that make you hungrier later on, diets that are naturally low in calories have remarkable health benefits. Our metabolic systems were designed for scarcity.

Researchers have put a lot of effort into unpacking the benefits of low calorie diets. Is it the lack of calories themselves doing the good deeds, or is it just a proxy for something else?

The general consensus seems to be that, yes, the lack of calories all by itself does wonderful things for your body…..with a few caveats. And a big caveat is that a lack of carbs in the diet seems to have health benefits unique to other types of deprivation.

Why? Because carbs are the lifeblood of cancer cells.

For the most part, a cancer cell can only metabolize glucose for its fuel. It can’t metabolize the by-products of fatty acid and protein metabolism.

Ketone bodies, the by-products of fatty-acid metabolism, also seem to negatively affect cancerous cell proliferation, at least in vitro. Ketone bodies are highest when your insulin levels are low. Or in other words…when you’re not eating too much simple sugar.


Augustin LS, Dal Maso L, La Vecchia C, Parpinel M, Negri E, Vaccarella S, Kendall CW, Jenkins DJ, Francesch S: Dietary glycemic index and glycemic load, and breast cancer risk: a case-control study. Ann Oncol 2001, 12:1533-1538.

Seyfried TN, Shelton LM: Cancer as a metabolic disease. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2010,7:7.

Goodwin PJ, Ennis M, Pritchard KI, Trudeau ME, Koo J, Madarnas Y, Hartwick W, Hoffman B, Hood N: Fasting insulin and outcome in early-stage breast cancer: results of a prospective cohort study. J Clin Oncol 2002, 20:42-51.

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