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Dr. Otto Warburg: How Misinterpreting A Brilliant Scientist Started The Harmful Low Carb Craze

Low carb diets are bad for you. A low oil, unprocessed, plant-based diet is ideal.

Dr. Padma Garvey/Plant-Based Doctor Mom

Dr. Otto Warburg: How Misinterpreting A Brilliant Scientist Started The Harmful Low Carb Craze


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If you or a loved one has ever had a PET scan to get checked for cancer, then you have had a test based entirely on Dr. Otto Warburg’s discovery. While you may not have heard of Dr. Warburg, you have probably heard that a low-carb, high fat diet is healthy way to lose weight and even helpful in preventing cancer. Dr. Otto Warburg was a brilliant scientist and medical doctor whose research spanned several decades.  I have spent some time reading his actual scientific publications so that I could see for myself exactly what he proved. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in physiology in 1931 for elucidating how cells make energy. He was suppose to receive another Nobel Prize in 1941 but it was rescinded because of WWII.  He also discovered the process of photosynthesis which is how plants convert sunlight into our food.  He should have gotten a Nobel Prize for this too!  As a doctor and a student of biology, I cannot stress enough how awed I am by this man's accomplishments.


Dr. Warburg was the first to discover that cancer cells have very specific and unique differences from normal cells.  Dr. Warburg discovered that cancer cells use glucose (blood sugar) for energy in a primitive way, one that does not need oxygen.  Normal cells can do this too, but they prefer to use glucose for energy with oxygen as it produces more energy.  It makes sense because cancer cells grow so fast that they outgrow their blood supply cutting themselves off from oxygen.  Without any oxygen, the more primitive way of burning glucose for energy comes in very handy.  This primitive way of using glucose causes acid to build up locally around the cancer cells.  Normal cells do not work well in an acidic environment, but cancer cells seem to love the acid.  Dr. Warburg’s research documented that cancer cells could not grow if the pH immediately surrounding them, on a cellular level, was alkaline.  Dr. Warburg questioned whether or not cancer cells had other means of making energy.  As a true scientist, he could not be sure without evidence. Many others started to say that Dr. Warburg actually found the cause for cancer, glucose.  They postulated that a low carb, high fat diet could treat cancer.  

This was the first rung on the ladder that started the low carb, high fat craze.  In order to say something works, it needs to be verified in the lab and on large scale populations.  If a low carb, high fat diet really works at preventing cancer, then we should see that populations that have higher rates of fat consumption have lower rates of cancer. In fact, the opposite is true. Across the world, there is NO COUNTRY that has seen a rise in cancer, diabetes or heart disease that has not also seen a rise in fat consumption.  In fact, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease all go hand-in-hand and all are seen in countries who have shifted to a calorie-dense diet. The only exception to this could be the Inuits whose traditional diet consisted of whale blubber, caribou, and berries.  Current low carb diets like the Paleo diet or the ketogenic diet are nothing like the Inuit diet, and the whale and caribou populations are dwindling anyway.


Since Dr. Warburg’s outstanding discovery, it has been proven that cancer cells can utilize fat and protein very well for energy and don’t need glucose as much as Dr. Warburg thought. In fact, because cancer cells grow so much faster than normal cells, cancer cells need more fat and protein than normal cells do.  So by going high fat, high protein, low carb, the cancer cells do just fine. Unfortunately, a high fat diet does not help the rest of your normal cells at all.  This is why the Paleo diet and ketogenic diets are so bad for you.


The lifestyle is key. Eat a low fat, whole grain, unprocessed plant-based diet.


1.     Heterogeneity in Cancer Metabolism, Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, Vol 26, No 9 3/2017

2.    Mitochondria and Cancer, National Rev Cancer, 3/2015

3.    The Inuit Paradox, Discover Magazine

4.    Cancer Spread and High Fat Diet

5.    Dietary Fat and Diabetes

6.  Otto Warburg Survival of Ethical Storms

7.  The Metabolism of Tumours, by Dr. Otto Warburg

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