A Metabolic Interlude – The thinking behind the Ketogenic Diet

Note: This was part of an original “lost blog series” that I published from 2012 to 2014 long before the Ketogenic Diet had peaked in popularity the way it has now.  I did predict that event and lo and behold there has been a plethora of new books and blogs on the topic including one by the world’s most famous internet doctor!

But as usual you may have read it first here.

So with minor updates and additions here is the original Part 2 Entitled A Metabolic Interlude.


Long ago and far away a man named Otto Warburg hypothesized that cancer was a metabolic disease. In his view it was a defect in mitochondrial respiration. The politics of the world and of science eventually led to Warburg’s theories taking a back seat and a new theory of cancer took hold.

The strongest voice for reinstating and indeed advancing Warburg’s theories is a man named Thomas Seyfried who has recently released the book I mentioned in the first keto blog “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease”.

Dr Seyfried’s book is probably the most important piece of scientific reading I have done in the past 12 months. I still have many questions and am not 100% sure I believe every single thing written there but I am 100% convinced we are missing something in cancer therapy that this book addresses.

What is Dr Seyfried up against?


The genetic or genomic theory of cancer has been the predominant theory of cancer for the past 60 years so much so that all but for a few scientists Warburg became a forgotten footnote. Interestingly enough many of what you would call “peripheral health care practitioners” often invoked Warburg’s name to “prove” that Ozone therapy works for cancer.

As of this moment there is no evidence to support Ozone although there are the beginnings of glimmers of hope for hyperbaric therapy. *

To be clear what Warburg said was that Cancer cells could be specifically starved by attacking their nutrient source, not their oxygen source. There is scientific evidence to support cancer starvation using something called 2-deoxy glucose a chemical that mimics glucose and blocks its use in energy pathways. While the initial trials are not all successful, the work continues.

Warburg felt that the power houses of the cell called mitochondria had acquired a defect somehow. Examples of what might cause that defect are radiation, toxins and even in my opinion something like a skewed Omega6/3 ratio which promotes inflammation in the body.

This was to be the initial step in cancer formation. Clearly many of the cells would not survive this defect and would die and be removed by normal pathways of cellular trash hauling!

Those that did survive however would be subject to other changes that would allow them to use alternate forms of energy to generate the needed power of life while concomitantly and sequentially acquiring ongoing genomic instabilities and mutations that would allow them to escape normal growth controls among other things.

So the basic premise of this theory is, the respiratory (mitochondrial defect) comes first then the genetic stuff starts popping up.

Genetic theory of cancer proponents do not argue that almost every cancer seen has a metabolic defect that fits Warburg’s theories. They maintain however that the genes change first and downstream, way downstream from that, the mitochondrial defects occur.

In terms of what might be offered to cancer patients, the Warburg/Seyfried theories suggest a common point of cancer origin, a simple inexpensive therapy, at least as an adjunct to other forms, a potential for cancer prevention and quite frankly health improvement in non cancerous individuals, and a beacon of hope in the ever increasingly complex world of cancer therapy.

The genomic origins of cancer suggest: infinite complexity, the need for individual and personal treatment not for just each person but each tumor site, enormous expense and toxicity since even the best therapies still kill a fair number of healthy cells, and an onerous panel of side effects and misery to be endured by “survivors” of cancer. Of course this is also a gigantic source of revenue and business. I would like to say that means nothing but in my experience as an allopathic physician it is disgustingly front and center in this particular field.

Personally I am not convinced that either side is 100% correct and that either side has no merit.  The body is complex and cancer is a complex disease. Still it would be a human tragedy of enormous proportions if we did not further investigate the possibility of simple effective ways to augment what we are trying to do with cancer and cancer patients.

To all my colleagues out there- Do You really personally feel we are winning the war against cancer?

I don’t and this is why I feel so strongly that Dr Seyfried’s work needs as much attention as we can give it including research dollars.

If the Warburg/Seyfried hypothesis is correct, our own bodies may have the power to recycle sick and toxic mitochondria (autophagy, or more specifically mitophagy) and restore health to the cell before or even after cancerous transformation.

Is this not worth a sincere effort to find out!

Dr Dave

*Ironically intermittent Hypoxemia (severe lowering of arterial oxygen for short periods of time) has been used to induce mitophagy (mitochondrial recycling). This would be the exact opposite of hyperbaric oxygen therapy!

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