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Dr. Dominic D’Agostino: Emerging Applications of Nutritional Ketosis

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ByCrossFit August 16, 2019

Ketones are energy substrates that function similarly to hormones and act as histone deacetylase inhibitors. Ketone levels can be elevated to the point of nutritional ketosis through dietary strategies such as high-fat, extremely low-carb diets and intermittent fasting.

Scientists continue to discover evidence of the therapeutic value of nutritional ketosis for a range of conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, an Associate Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida, is at the forefront of research related to the use of ketosis for cancer treatment.

During a presentation on July 31, 2019, at the annual CrossFit Health Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, D’Agostino shared his knowledge of the health benefits associated with ketones and presented his latest research on ketosis as an adjuvant treatment for high-grade glioma.

D’Agostino shared the story of the how he became interested in therapeutic ketosis. While studying strategies to enhance the safety and performance of Navy SEAL divers breathing high-pressure oxygen, he observed an interesting phenomenon: Rats placed in a high-pressure oxygen environment that would typically produce a seizure within five minutes were able to withstand the environment for 15 to 20 minutes if they had been fasting for 24 to 36 hours. He also observed that cancer cells were exploding under the hyperbaric oxygen conditions. He began to develop a fascination with what he discovered were the neuroprotective and anti-cancer effects of ketones, a fascination that would shape the trajectory of his career.

Through his later research, he discovered supplemental ketones decrease the proliferation of cancer cell types and the ketogenic diet increases cancer-associated immunity.

Highlighting the work of Dr. Thomas Seyfried, who claims cancer is a metabolic disease, D’Agostino explained that “the ultimate tumor suppressors are healthy mitochondria.” He continued, “Exercise, CrossFit, ketogenic diet, low-carb nutrition, intermittent fasting — all these things we know — periodic caloric restriction — enhance mitochondrial function.”

D’Agostino claimed that unlike most pharmaceutical interventions, which target specific hallmarks of cancer such as invasiveness or angiogenesis, the ketogenic diet “helps increase the vigilance of your immune system to recognize cancer and to attack it through a number of mechanisms.”

“Nutritional ketosis or therapeutic ketosis targets all the hallmarks of cancer,” he said.


To read a full transcription of the presentation, click here.

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