February 20, 2015

Metabolic Theory of Cancer: Cancer as a Protective Mechanism

“Cancer cells were producing energy in a way that evolution had set aside as an auxiliary pathway, a highly inefficient generator that kicked in when the power went out.” (Christofferson, p.20

“Tumors bypass many of the biochemical constraints that regulate metabolism, in order to maximize their survival at great expense to the host.” (Mathupala, Ko, Pedersen, 2010)

The amplified rates of glycolysis “indicate a strategy used by highly malignant tumors to survive as well as thrive within the host using a remarkable set of coordinated molecular mechanisms. These mechanisms, which are very similar to those utilized by some highly successful parasites, indicate a sophisticated strategy devised by tumors to survive even the most inhospitable microenvironments within the host.” (Mathupala, Rempel, Pedersen, 1997)

Throughout this series on the metabolic origins of cancer, I have been hinting that cancer—destructive, devastating, scary cancer—might be an evolutionarily conserved protective mechanism. I realize this is politically incorrect. But when we understand some of the biochemistry and physiology involved, this is actually a fairly logical conclusion to arrive at.   

I have gone to great lengths to explain some of the relevant biochemical pathways involved in how and why cancer cells accomplish all the seemingly horrible things they do. In looking at glycolysis, the shift to hexokinase 2, aerobic fermentation, the upregulation of glucose transporters, and more, we have explored a lot about the how of cancer. And we’ve certainly talked a bit about the why. Today, let’s go a little farther down the rabbit hole of the why, because, as I left off saying last time, if we can figure out why cells become malignant, we might have better odds at preventing cancer. We can certainly develop more effective treatment protocols if we understand the how of cancer, but understanding the why will give us even more of an advantage in devising treatments, as well as creating (potentially) better prevention strategies and strategies to prevent recurrence.    

February 10, 2015

Metabolic Theory of Cancer: Mutations vs Mitochondria

“Let’s get ready to RUUUUMBLLLLLE!”

“Maybe we’ve mischaracterized the origin of cancer. Maybe cancer is not a genetic disease after all. Maybe we are losing the war against cancer because scientists are chasing a flawed scientific paradigm, and cancer is not a disease of damaged DNA but rather one of defective metabolism.” (Christofferson, xiii)

“If scientists have mischaracterized the origin of cancer, then we have lost three decades trying to target mutations that are a side effect rather than the motor driving the disease. (Christofferson, p.223)

“It is interesting to note that none of the current approaches to brain cancer management discussed at a recent symposium involved strategies to target tumor cell energy metabolism. Several presentations at this symposium discussed the failures associated with current approaches to management. As long as [brain] cancer is viewed as something other than a disease of energy metabolism, the failures will likely continue in our opinion.” (Seyfried et al., 2012)

February 3, 2015

Metabolic Theory of Cancer: Cancer Cells are Sugar Junkies

“One of the most common and profound phenotypes of cancer cells is their propensity to utilize and catabolize glucose at high rates.” (Mathupala et al, 1997)

“The higher the glucose levels, the faster the tumors grew. As glucose levels fall, tumor size and growth rate falls.” (Seyfried et al., 2012)

“Hyperglycemia was also directly linked to poor prognosis in humans with malignant brain cancer.” (Seyfried et al., 2012)

Cancer cells are sugar junkies.

If those five words, strung together in that order, are a surprise to you, then you haven’t been paying much attention so far. If you’ve been keeping up with the previous posts in this series on the metabolic origins of cancer, you will have seen this coming a mile away. (Or, rather, four or five blog posts away.)

Cancer cells love glucose. They need glucose. And they do everything in their power to suck up as much of it as they possibly can, even at the expense of healthy tissue elsewhere in the body. Short of actually taking control of the motor functions of your arms and hands in order to pour you a giant bowl of sugar-frosted breakfast cereal and cram it down your throat, cancer cells do everything they can to ensure they have access to a never-ending supply of glucose. 

In the past few posts, we’ve looked in detail at the main reason why cancer cells do this, and a few mechanisms for how they do it. I have been saying all along that cancer cells are wily little things, and they perform some stunningly impressive feats of metabolic Twister in order to accomplish the nefarious task of keeping themselves alive by gorging on glucose.

Since it’s been a while since the last post, let’s take a quick look back at what we’ve covered so far, regarding cancer cells’ dependence on glucose as their primary fuel.

January 26, 2015

Label Madness Monday

It’s been a while since we took a look at a food label and had ourselves a laugh. And lest this blog become nothing but book reviews, rants, and super-nerdy posts about cancer, I figured now might be a good time to resurrect good ol’ Label Madness Monday. So here goes.

Today’s an easy one. For those of you in the U.S., it’ll probably just make you chuckle. To those of you outside the U.S., let this be a lesson in the complete and total ridiculousness that rules food labeling laws in our whacked-out country. Land of the free, home of the brave, and slave to the almighty marketing dollar preying upon the complete idiocy of the majority of the population.

Here goes: Fat-free, sugar-free, non-dairy coffee creamer.

January 18, 2015

Alzheimer's Follow-up: Q&A (a.k.a. World's Longest Blog Post)


Anyone out there watch Ancient Aliens? If so, you are probably cracking up right now. If not, you’re scratching your head, because you have no idea why this is funny. (Trust me, though, it’s hilarious.)

Seriously, though, the answer is not aliens. I might not know for sure what the answers are, but I’ll provide my best guesses/hunches.

What are the questions? Here goes:

It’s no secret that I am trying to get the word out about Alzheimer’s disease as a “disease of civilization” – that is, a condition that results from the mismatch between our physiology and the modern Western diet (refined carbohydrate-heavy, vegetable oil-heavy, low in micronutrients), and the modern Western lifestyle (inadequate sleep, inadequate physical movement, too much psychological stress, loss of human emotional connections). As of 1/18/2015, the post I wrote pointing folks toward the article I wrote for the Weston A. Price Foundation, has 1470 views. Not all that many, considering the one on Vitamin J has 13,512. (If I could get Mark Sisson to include the Alzheimer’s post in one of his Sunday Weekend Link Loves, maybe it would have more, since, thanks to a reader and friend who alerted the MDA people to it, that is where the vast majority of hits came from on Vitamin J.)

But word is spreading, if slowly. (In fact, someone is launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary about preventing Alzheimer’s, called Bread Head.) More people here and there are stumbling onto my blog, and finding the Alzheimer’s article, which is nice. One such newcomer left some very good questions in the comments section. They were good enough—and my answers complex enough—that I thought it would benefit more people if I answered in the form of a blog post, where everyone would see it, versus responding in the comments section, where almost no one would.

January 13, 2015

Fat Tuesday: World's Simplest Tallow

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably realized by now that there are few things I like talking about more than fat. Especially delicious animal fat, and even more especially, that of ruminant animals, such as cows and sheep. These fats are predominantly saturated and monounsaturated, which makes them stable for high-heat cooking, and of course, there’s the most important point: they’re delicious!

I have written in detail about beef tallow before. To people who are new to the traditional food scene—and sometimes even to us old hands—rendering tallow and lard at home can seem like a daunting prospect. The good news is, you don’t have to do it all that often to get a supply that will last you a while. If you make a big batch of stock, depending on the types of bones you use, you could end up with lots and lots of tallow, which you can store in the freezer for a long time. (In addition to the “boney bones,” you’ll want some meaty bits, too. They’ll give the stock more flavor, and if you choose fatty shanks, maybe some short ribs, and other fatty pieces, all that gorgeous fat will render out during the simmering process and you’ll be left with lots of golden delicious fat. And you thought that phrase was only for apples!)

And the even better news is, if you’re not of a mind to do it yourself, more and more small, family-owned, grass-based farms are selling lard and tallow on the farmstead and also at farmers’ markets. (With more and more people getting into this kind of thing these days, you can even order the good stuff online now.) So being skittish about the DIY process is no excuse to keep cooking with soybean or corn oil.

But here’s the best news of all: getting your hands on good ruminant tallow is as simple as cooking some gound beef or lamb in a skillet, and reserving the fat in a separate container, rather than throwing it away, the way fifty years of “fat-is-bad” propaganda have conditioned us to do. (Remember: fat isn’t bat. Not even saturated fat.)

I’m not kidding! It really is that simple. Here’s how it works: