302: Dr. Thomas Seyfried: A Calorie-Restricted Ketogenic Diet Could Be The Cure For Brain Cancer


Hello and welcome back to The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore!

Today, Jimmy shares his interview with Boston College professor and cancer researcher, Dr. Thomas Seyfried. Dr. Seyfried has been researching the effect of a commercially available ketogenic animal fodder coupled with calorie restriction on brain cancer in mice. The effects have been very promising, but will livin’ la vida low-carb prove to be just as efficacious in people who suffer from brain cancer? Listen in to hear this important discussion, as well as Dr. Seyfried’s comments on how an annual fast can actually prevent cancer from ever developing!


What awesome food goes great with cream cheese, smoked salmon or any kind of a shmear? Bagels, of course! Can’t have ’em on your low-carb diet? Think again! Listen in for details about HealthWise Zero Net Carb Bagels! See Jimmy’s video below!

Check out the HealthWise Zero Net Carb Bagels from Linda’s Diet Delites
Dr. Thomas Seyfried bio
The Seyfried Laboratory at Boston College
– RELATED BLOG POST: “Study: Brain Cancer Tumors ‘Significantly Smaller’ On High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet”
– RELATED PODCAST: Dr. Deborah Snyder On The Low-Carb Cure For Epilepsy (Episode 282)

17 Responses to 302: Dr. Thomas Seyfried: A Calorie-Restricted Ketogenic Diet Could Be The Cure For Brain Cancer
  1. sss
    November 2, 2009 | 8:51 am

    one name: otto warburg, nobel laureate, 1931. taubes discusses him in gc,bc. simply put – if it can be expressed simply – respiration versus fermentation. cancer cells employ the second. therefore they get their start – or have an easier time of it – if not thrive in high blood glucose environments.

    what exactly is so dangerous about unrestricted ketogenic eating? ????

    I tried to nail him down on why the calorie-restriction was so necessary and never got an adequate response to this question.


  2. Adam
    November 2, 2009 | 10:03 pm

    This is an interesting blog which give us the idea how to prevent brain cancer. Everybody were scared of cancer as it’s hard to prevent from it but now Dr. Thomas Seyfried has announced in his episode that a calories restricted ketogenic diet could be the cure for brain cancer. Thanks to Dr. Thomas Seyfried for the useful advice to cure cancer and hope you upgrade more and I am always looking forward to it.

  3. Sue
    November 4, 2009 | 12:09 am

    I think maybe the calorie restriction, like intermittent fasting improves a lot of health markers. Also, calorie restriction modulates apoptosis (cell death) so that any damaged cells in your body are cleared away. Can’t remember where I read this about apoptosis. (Read so many blogs)!

  4. Sue
    November 4, 2009 | 3:39 am
  5. Boudi
    November 4, 2009 | 5:28 am

    “what exactly is so dangerous about unrestricted ketogenic eating?????”

    As a VLCer, too, was very curious about this. Do you think Seyfried would give us a brief answer on the forum? Does this mean the only safe way to VLC is to IF or eat tiny meals? What about people who do this for management of epilepsy, do they restrict calories?

    I will ask him for a response, Boudi. :)


  6. Jimmy Moore
    November 4, 2009 | 1:21 pm

    Here are some answers from Dr. Seyfried to questions people had about this interview:

    What exactly is so dangerous about unrestricted ketogenic eating?

    The ketogenic diet contains large amounts of high caloric saturated fats. It is not healthy to eat large amounts of saturated fats. This will contribute to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. High blood glucose levels are associated with high fat consumption even when there are no carbohydrates in the diet. High blood glucose levels will accelerate tumor growth. The liver will synthesize glucose from the glycerol component of the triglycerides. Consequently, the KD should be consumed in restricted amounts, especially over prolonged periods. As I have clearly written in my articles, “more is not better” when it comes to eating the ketogenic diet for either epilepsy or brain cancer.

    Does this mean the only safe way to very low-carb is to engage in intermittent fasting or eat tiny meals?

    Yes. People can prove this to themselves by simply measuring their blood glucose levels under these conditions.

    What about people who do this for management of epilepsy, do they restrict calories, too?

    Yes. The KD is always administered in restricted amounts to patients with epilepsy. Seizure protection is lost in epilepsy patients who consume too much KD. Again, it relates to blood glucose levels. Epilepsy is managed best when blood glucose levels remain stable in the low range (65-75 mg/dl).

    Are you implying that people who eat an unrestricted ketogenic diet are doing gross metabolic harm?

    Gross metabolic harm would happen only if the diet was consumed in large amounts over extended periods, e.g., weeks or months. The diet is healthy only when consumed in small amounts. This will produce the condition of low glucose with elevated ketones.

    Your comments are welcomed!

  7. Boudi
    November 5, 2009 | 5:25 am

    Wow, lots of food for thought! As a VLCer I eat lots of saturated fat, but was under the impression it would not lead to increases in glucose levels. I think I need to find the articles to which he refers. I’m concerned.

    Thank you Dr. Seyfried for taking the time to answer.

  8. Richard Feinman
    November 5, 2009 | 6:30 am

    One point is that “the ketogenic diet” as traditionally employed is unnecessarily high in fat and mistakenly tries to minimize the sum of carbohydrate and protein. Is this what Seyfried is talking about? Kosoff showed that a low carbohydrate diet is just as effective as traditional KD.

    Also, I thought that Browning had shown that the contribution of glycerol to gluconeogenesis did not change on a low carbohydrate diet. What is the reference showing that saturated fat raises blood glucose.

    Finally, studies from Volek’s lab show that SFA in the blood does not follow the diet.


  9. Sue
    November 5, 2009 | 8:22 pm

    Thanks Prof. Feinman.

  10. Stargazey
    November 7, 2009 | 8:49 am

    Dr. Seyfried says, “High blood glucose levels are associated with high fat consumption even when there are no carbohydrates in the diet. High blood glucose levels will accelerate tumor growth.”

    The glycerol backbone is only a small part of a fat molecule. The acyl groups constitute 90% or more of the weight of a fat and they cannot be converted to glucose. My guess is that the high blood glucose levels associated with high fat/no carbohydrate diets are the result of gluconeogenesis of the protein consumed along with the fat.

    Unless Dr. Seyfried can show that high blood glucose follows a meal of nothing but fat, I would be more inclined to believe that high blood glucose on a ketogenic diet results from eating too much protein rather than eating too much fat.

  11. Willis Morse
    November 13, 2009 | 6:35 pm

    This chart, from Role of glucose and ketone bodies in the metabolic control of experimental brain cancer shows the unrestricted ketogenic diet producing a higher glucose level after 10 weeks than the unrestricted standard diet. If I converted the numbers correctly, it breaks down like this:

    Standard unrestricted 163.8 mg/dL
    Standard restricted 93.6 mg/dL
    Ketogenic unrestricted 205.2 mg/dL
    Ketogenic restricted 102.6 mg/dL

    So if Dr Seyfried is seeing an unrestricted ketogenic diet resulting in glucose levels over 200, I can see why he’s concerned.

    Of course, most self-reported glucose levels that I’ve seen from low carbers and Paleo eaters are around 100 mg/dL. Still higher than what Dr Seyfried is recommending for control of brain cancer, but obviously a lot better than 200 mg/dL.

    So setting aside the saturated fat issue for a moment, why is Dr Seyfried cautioning against unrestricted unrestricted ketogenic diets: is he worried we’re going to get glucose levels like 200 mg/dL, or is it that he thinks even 100 mg/dL is too high?

    BTW, the paper says this about the ketogenic diet used:

    The ketogenic diet was obtained from Zeigler Bros., Inc. (Gardners, PA, USA) and also contained a balance of mouse nutritional ingredients. According to the manufacturer’s specification, the KD delivers 7.8 kcal g-1 gross energy, where fat, carbohydrate, protein, and fibre comprised 700, 0, 128, and 109 g kg-1 of the diet, respectively. The fat in this diet was derived from lard and the diet had a ketogenic ratio (fats : proteins+carbohydrates) of 5.48 : 1.

  12. donny
    November 19, 2009 | 8:57 am

    Oy. Hi Jimmy.

    Okay, I got to this party a little late. That study posted by Willis Morse got me poking around. I found this;
    ABSTRACT C57BL/6J (B/6J) mice are genetically
    predisposed to become overweight and develop hyperglycemia
    if raised on a high fat diet.


    From the study posted by Willis Morse;
    Mice of the C57BL/6J strain were obtained from Jackson Laboratory

    It might take seven to ten days of total starvation to parallel the effects of the restricted calorie ketogenic diet on these particular mice. I doubt very much that it would take such an heroic effort to parallel the effects of this same diet on mice not bred to mishandle dietary fat.


    If you look at this graph, serum glucose tracks pretty tightly with tumour dry weight. If your non-restricted ketogenic diet results in normal fasting blood glucose, reasonable post-meal blood glucose excursions, low levels of fructosamine and glycated hemoglobin, you’re probably in a good place, at least as far as glucose-dependent cancer goes.

  13. donny
    November 19, 2009 | 9:26 am

    Ketogenic diets have been used as an approach to weight loss on the basis of the theoretical advantage of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. To evaluate the physiological and metabolic effects of such diets on weight we studied mice consuming a very-low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet (KD). This diet had profound effects on energy balance and gene expression. C57BL/6 mice animals were fed one of four diets: KD; a commonly used obesogenic high-fat, high-sucrose diet (HF); 66% caloric restriction (CR); and control chow (C). Mice on KD ate the same calories as mice on C and HF, but weight dropped and stabilized at 85% initial weight, similar to CR. This was consistent with increased energy expenditure seen in animals fed KD vs. those on C and CR. Microarray analysis of liver showed a unique pattern of gene expression in KD, with increased expression of genes in fatty acid oxidation pathways and reduction in lipid synthesis pathways. Animals made obese on HF and transitioned to KD lost all excess body weight, improved glucose tolerance, and increased energy expenditure. Analysis of key genes showed similar changes as those seen in lean animals placed directly on KD. Additionally, AMP kinase activity was increased, with a corresponding decrease in ACC activity. These data indicate that KD induces a unique metabolic state congruous with weight loss.

    In this study, feeding mice an ad-lib ketogenic diet resulted in lower fasting blood glucose than feeding chow restricted to 66% of ad lib chow. 214.6±29 mg/dl versus 284.7±31.7 mg/dl.

  14. donny
    November 19, 2009 | 9:41 am

    Sorry for the multiple posts, Jimmy. :)

    The mice in that last study are called C57BL/6 mice, and the mice in the first study C57BL/6J mice. I don’t know whether the J makes a difference or not.

    If not this suggests that it was more likely the nature of the ketogenic diet itself that caused the different outcomes in blood glucose. Maybe differences in protein levels, types of fat used. I don’t know what was used in the study W. Morse posted, but in the study where blood glucose was lowest on the ketogenic diet, most of the fat came from lard.

  15. Ray
    November 23, 2009 | 9:49 am

    Sorry, I got to this late as well.

    a couple of thoughts
    1) does this mean by some of the things he said about doing low fat and severe caloric restriction was also good – was the KIM Kens (sp) was also good for you?
    I seem to remember some people had major issues on that one.

    2) is that why the Optimal Diet seems so good?
    his is not to low carb but is over 200 grams of fat a day
    people have been on that for years

    BTW Jimmy,
    love you podcast. I know you have had trouble with getting Dr Kwasnieski on your show. Have you thought to see you could find any Doctors in the US that you could interview on the Optimal diet?

  16. dalton
    November 29, 2009 | 4:43 pm

    So in the calorie range of 400-600 per day, in order to meet the minimum protein requirement of about 60 grams, about 50% of the diet will be protein (4 calories per gram, or about 250 calories).

    So for simplicity sake, if 250 calories are protein and 0 are carbs, that leaves about 250 calories for fat, or about 28 grams of fat (for the midpoint calorie range of 500 on a 400-600 calorie/day diet.

    I plugged eggs and chicken into Fit Day and came up with 4 large eggs + 6 ounces grilled chicken breast is equivalent to about 500 calories, 24 grams of fat and 67 grams protein. Count about 2-3 carbs in there for the eggs.

    How hard would it be to live on something like this if you were in ketosis, which naturally decreases your appetite?

  17. Betty
    December 2, 2009 | 6:28 pm

    Interesting, I’ve also been paying more attention to diet and nutrition lately. Anyone heard about this upcoming weight loss program created by Kirstie Alley, one of my favorite actresses, no less?!?!? Saw her talking about it on Oprah. Register here to find out what the heck she’s got going on http://www.kirstiealley.com If you have an opinion on it, or know anything about it, post it here!

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