“The Ketogenic Kitchen” is a book, which has been published recently (1). It is jointly written by Domini Kemp and Patricia Daly. Both of them have overcome cancer successfully. Making changes to their diet has played a crucial role in their recoveries and helped support them during conventional treatment. The book contains a marvellous collection of recipes for those who are keen to consume a diet that is low in carbs and high in fat (LCHF) or a ketogenic diet. It is another important contribution to the campaign to get this approach to nutrition incorporated into the public health policies. Even more important, it provides emerging, but compelling evidence that both LCHF and ketogenic diets could be implemented as a dietary option for people with cancer and many chronic other diseases.
Domini is an award-winning chef, food writer and entrepreneur. She started life in the Bahamas, but moved to Ireland in her early teens. In her twenties, she developed melanoma. This stimulated her interest in the role of diet and she read various books on the subject including “Anticancer: a new way of life” by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, which I discussed in my blog some time ago (1). She recovered but developed breast cancer in 2013 in her forties. Domini was treated with chemotherapy, mastectomy and radiotherapy which she reinforced by changing her diet and taking exercise to support her immune system.
Patricia was working in a bank when she noticed persistent flickering in her right eye, followed by a temporary loss of vision, which alarmed her optician and was rapidly diagnosed as a detached retina caused by a large tumour. She was treated with radiotherapy and apparently recovered. She started to investigate the role of nutrition in the development of cancer and other diseases in an attempt to discover how she might prevent another tumour. Because the problems with her eyesight made it impossible to work long hours in an office she embarked on a career change and started training as a nutritional therapist. Shortly after the birth of her first child, the old symptoms returned, despite the fact Patricia had made significant changes to her diet and lifestyle. The treatments were repeated, but this time with even stronger doses of proton beam radiotherapy. At this point she discovered the ideas which indicated that cancer is a metabolic disease. This is based on the original work of the distinguished German biochemist Otto Warburg. He postulated that cancer cells depend on anaerobic fermentation to produce energy, which means that they need glucose as the main source of energy. The inevitable conclusion is that if the supply of sugar is cut off the cancer cells struggles to thrive and survive. Patricia applied this approach rigorously and very quickly started to improve and subsequently made a complete recovery. It is important to understand that in order to reduce and stabilize blood sugar, virtually all sources of carbohydrates have to be avoided, protein has to be restricted and therefore the main energy source is fat. Hence 70-80% of the food energy has to be derived from healthy fats, which is very much higher than that recommended by most national policies.
In view of their experiences, it is perfectly logical that the two women decided to work together to share their experiences and disseminate the expertise which they have created. Although the recipes and meal plans make up the bulk of the work, the stories they tell are heart-warming and must provide inspiration for anyone who has been diagnosed with the dreaded “C” word. The tragedy is that the vast majority of cancer-sufferers never learn about these successes. In fact Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, mentioned above, who was a medical clinical professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine in the University of Pittsburgh found that none of his medical colleagues had the slightest interest in advising how he could avoid a recurrence of his brain tumour. It was only because of his own initiative that he discovered there is lots of useful information available on the relationship between food/diet and cancer. There is no doubt that the authors are tuned to the quality developments in this field and provided a highly reliable introduction to this field of study.
The scientific background (in brief)
To put it in a nutshell, there is now very compelling evidence that a diet with a high content of sugar and starchy carbohydrates (which break down to glucose) is one of the drivers not only for cancer but also for Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), obesity, heart disease and quite possibly Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). In spite of the advice given by many health professionals, carbohydrates are not essential nutrients. There are many examples of populations, which are perfectly healthy that have a very low intake of carbohydrates. The body has the capacity to utilize fat and meet all the demands for energy from this source. In most contemporary societies, the big problem is that because of the high intake of sugar and carbohydrates, it is rare for individuals to get their “fat burners” working. This can easily be rectified by increased fat consumption with a “ketogenic diet”.
So anyone who is interested in consuming a genuinely healthy diet would be strongly recommended to try out some of these recipes. It has been established that this approach is consistent with good health as shown such markers as blood glucose, triglycerides (fat) and HDL-Cholesterol. It is also a proven way to achieve sustainable weight loss. Contrary to the “official line”, excess body fat is caused by a diet high in carbohydrates. As both Domini and Patricia have shown from their own experience, it has helped them throughout treatment and is now a way of life for them both. However it also works very well for T2D and almost certainly reduces the risk of heart disease.
I understand that the book has been subject to criticism by professional bodies in Ireland such as the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute. While this may be somewhat disconcerting for the authors, it is a positive sign that they are having an impact. They are not the first and certainly will not be the last to find themselves in the firing line. In Australia, dietitian Jennifer Elliot was expelled from the Dietitians Association of Australia for advocating a low carb diet (3). Within the last few weeks, Dr. Gary Fettke has been instructed by the Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Authority not to give advice on nutrition (4). Here is an extract from the decision:
“There is nothing associated with your medical training or education that makes you an expert or authority in the field of nutrition, diabetes or cancer. Even if, in the future, your views on the benefits of the LCHF lifestyle become the accepted best medical practice this does not change the fundamental fact that you are not suitably trained or educated as a medical practitioner to be providing advice or recommendations on this topic as a medical practitioner.”
This is absolutely unbelievable. One of the implications is that medics are not allowed to use the knowledge and experience which they learned as a result of treating their patients.
In South Africa, Professor Tim Noakes has been charged with professional misconduct by the Health Professional Council of South Africa because he tweeted that a baby could be weaned onto a low carb diet. There have been several hearings at which the pros and cons of a ketogenic diet have been thoroughly examined. Any independent observer cannot fail to be impressed by the very convincing case presented by Tim and those called to support him. By contrast, the case presented by those who attempted to justify the South African dietary guidelines (which are essentially the same as those in most other countries) was pathetic. The decision will be announced in April 2017 (5). It will be an absolute travesty if he is not totally vindicated.
This is war!
Make no mistake, we are in the middle of a war to achieve a complete overhaul of the national dietary guidelines, which are based on those devised in the USA in the 1970s/80s. The effect of these guidelines has been to vilify fat: as result fat consumption has fallen and been largely replaced by carbohydrates, which explains why there has been such an explosion in the incidence of T2D and obesity. Undoubtedly these dietary changes have contributed to the current high levels of heart disease and AD.
We have to keep fighting. It is crucial to understand that most of those who oppose change are not interested in improving public health. They feel threatened and are prepared to use every trick in the book to defend their positions and territory.
The reality is that Domini and Patricia, like many others, are alive and well today because they had the courage, confidence and competence to do their own research and take control themselves. The scandal is that there are millions of others out there who cannot or will not follow their example. Consequently, they continue to suffer and many die prematurely. That is the harsh truth.
I recommend this book very highly. It is an excellent introduction to a low carb lifestyle that has the potential to make a big difference to your personal health. If you do not suffer any chronic diseases, you have time to explore the various dishes and develop a new approach to meal preparation. However if you already have any of the chronic diseases mentioned here, then more drastic measures are needed and you should make every effort to explore the concept of carbohydrate reduction as quickly as possible. Consult this reference to see the remarkable results the patients of Dr. David Unwin have achieved with T2D and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) (6).
I hope this book will be read/consulted by anyone who is genuinely interested in improving their health. If you have friends who might benefit, here is the ideal Christmas gift.
- D Kemp & P Daly (2016) “The Ketogenic Kitchen” Gill Books: Dublin