What if something as simple as changing your diet could cure, or at least help to cure, cancer? Or Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS, Crohn’s, or diabetes?
What if there was scientific proof, hard proof, that the foods we eat could cure or prevent disease?
We’d be pretty quick to change what we eat, wouldn’t we?
There are plenty of good whole foods that can help boost the body’s immune system, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, minimize cell death, and speed healing. Science has proven health benefits from many nutrients found in good foods, but that doesn’t mean science has found all of the health benefits that come from good whole food.
A recent article in New Scientist Magazine, ‘Ketogenic diet’s reputed anticancer credentials put to test,’ highlights the story of a man who adopted a ketogenic diet when diagnosed with brain cancer. This man beat the odds and his tumour has “all but disappeared.”
So, was it the chemo or the new diet that made the difference?
The article never claims that the ketogenic diet is the reason for shrinking his cancer. Maybe it was all the chemo and radiation, or maybe the diet played a role (be it small or large). We don’t know, and the trouble is that we likely won’t know if a ketogenic diet (or any diet) can kill cancer.
This case highlights a problem with the current scientific approach. Check out this excerpt from the New Scientist article:
But if the ketogenic approach is promising, why has it been left to people like Scarborough to cobble together a diet without any real idea of whether it will work? Part of the problem is that there is no commercial incentive to pursue it: drug companies can’t afford to conduct trials that cost hundreds of millions of pounds to prove the efficacy of a treatment that anyone can get for themselves at the local supermarket. And there is no accepted way for showing efficacy of a treatment other than trials.
The nature of the intervention also stands in the way of doing a traditional clinical trial. For example, the status quo is a randomised double blind trial, in which people are put into groups at random and neither they nor researchers know who is having the treatment and who is having a placebo. The ketogenic trials could never be double blinded because the change to the participants’ diet would be impossible to hide. Nor can it be randomised because people need to agree to make drastic lifestyle changes.
So what does this mean?
It means that the rules and methods used in most dietary research studies need to be altered to account for radical changes.
In this case, the diet in question is a ketogenic diet, but it could be anything. It could be a high protein diet, or a vegan diet. The diet itself is irrelevant to the problem.
The problem is that science has failed to properly study the effects and correlations between extreme diets and illness. We’re saying it has failed because it hasn’t come up with any sort of hard scientific proof showing a cause and effect.
We know we’re asking for a lot, but we’re sure science will get there.
Science is continuing to unveil health benefits from certain foods, and damaging effects from others. It just needs to go one step further and look at if food can be used as a treatment, and how drastic changes, not just adding or subtracting one nutrient, will impact your health.