(bruce blog)Why Are There no BCAAs? Keto Blog VI

by Eric Gordon on October 24, 2022
Date: 11/28/2017
When I went back and looked at the title of this blog entry, I had to reread it a couple of times over to let it really sink in.  Likely, many of you may need to also.  After all, why on earth would I write about what BHB salts products WON’T do since I formulated one of the best-selling BHB salt products on the market today with Giant Keto®? Why would I want to discuss something these products very likely can’t do?  Wouldn’t it be better to just discuss what these products can potentially do and leave it at that?
Actually?  The answer is “no” as you will soon see.
Before I peel back the layers of this metaphorical onion, I want to warn you that this final blog entry in my Giant Keto BHB salt/ketosis series is likely to be fairly lengthy and somewhat controversial.  So if you don’t have a good 10-15 minutes to read this now?  Better to perhaps wait and come back when you do. I promise that it is absolutely worth your time.
I have already written a pretty well referenced article on what ketosis “really is” as well as what I feel BHB salt dietary supplements can offer most people at the request of Tigerfitness.com and Marc Lobliner (https://content.tigerfitness.com/bhb-salts-ketosis-betahydroxybutryate/).
Marc is one of the more honest and ethical people in the sports nutrition industry and Tiger Fitness’ website is a treasure trove of great, pragmatic articles for training, dieting and supplementation.  It’s also a great place to purchase virtually whatever dietary supplements you’re looking to buy.
So hopefully you clicked that link, meandered over to Marc’s site and had a quick read.  And hopefully you learned a few things about what ketosis and BHB salts products can potentially due for you.  Unfortunately…
…There exists a group of companies and people (I would argue, one person in particular with financial ties to pushing a “less than truthful” narrative) who are heavily hinting and trying to associate ketosis – and thus BHB salt products because these put you into a state of ketosis virtually instantly – with curing cancer.
I know, right on its face this is totally absurd.
However, these charlatans are pretty slick about it.  While they don’t dare come out themselves and write that ketosis/BHB salt products “cure cancer” because the FDA and FTC would beat the snot out of them, fine them and rightfully throw them in prison, these people have no compunctions talking about or linking to social media pages (particularly Youtube videos which I absolutely am not going to link to here) where some “independent/unaffiliated person” who had end stage/late stage cancer, failed chemo/radio therapy, went on a ketogenic diet and then within days or weeks saw their tumors/cancers virtually (and magically) shrink.
They were “cured.”
If only it were so.  However, based on the current data and peer reviewed, published research, it is absolutely NOT so.
The companies and people slyly hinting that the whole “keto cures cancer” nonsense, and they do it with subtlety, they know that if you repeat the same slogans or talking points (or have someone do it on their behalf, especially someone who is a physician or a PhD holding academic researcher who can speak in public well) over and over again, that eventually, the average person will come to believe in it.  And not just believe in it as “likely true” but as established science – immutable fact!  Yes, these companies and people absolutely need to be mindful of what they claim because FDA and FTC utterly HATE any type of “cures cancer” claims or insinuations attached to ANY dietary supplement.  Besides all of us know by now that we can never, ever, forget the mandatory “box statement” required by federal law to be on the label of all dietary supplements, right?
The Statements Have Not Been Evaluated By The Food & Drug Administration.     This Product Is Not Intended To Diagnose, Treat, Cure Or Prevent Any Disease.
The anti-cancer talking points tend to go like this or essentially something like this and they are often backed up by the offering of some peer-reviewed research that is often grossly taken out of context:
  1. Cancer and tumors are metabolically active and use a lot of glucose as an energy source.  It has been reported that some cancer cells may have up to 10X more insulin receptors on their cell membranes than normal healthy cells.
  2. High glucose and high plasma insulin levels have been linked to cancer (Mol Cell Biol. 2007;27:3569–3577 - Endocr Relat Cancer. 2012;19:R225–R241).
  3. Some cancer cells burn up to 200X more glucose than healthy cells (Cell. 2011;144:646–674) – this is known as the “Warburg Effect” which is named for the scientist who first observed this.
  4. There are some studies in mice that show that very low calorie, ketogenic diets can suppress cancer/tumor growth (Br J Cancer. 1987;56:39–43 - Br J Cancer. 1989;59:677–681).
  5. There exists some preliminary data that in a few, very specific types of cancers, that a very low calorie, ketogenic diet may halt the progression of the disease – specifically in human malignant glioma (tumors originating from glial cells in the central nervous system) & human adenocarcinoma of the stomach (Nutr Metab (Lond) 2007;4:5 -  BMC Cancer. 2008;8:122).
  6. Therefore, as the theory goes, nutritional ketosis just “starves” cancers because cancers seem to have higher glucose demands and grow well in the presence of higher insulin levels, biomarkers that tend to decrease substantially when a person is in nutritional ketosis.  The idea, the theory is that this gives the cancer “less fuel” to survive on, right?  “Starve the cancer!”
At this point, I want to interject that I would never want to deny and last hopes of a terminal cancer patient or their family. I would never take away such hope of a miracle from anyone.  Additionally, as a side note, I might win the lottery.  If you don’t play you can’t win.  I get it.
But if you want to try ketosis after every other treatment modality for cancer has failed then you need to go into it realizing the data people are relying on to support ketosis (and by extension BHB salt products) “doing anything” to cure or even slow down cancer progression in humans is more wishful thinking in my opinion than established science or immutable fact.  All those Youtubers be damned!
However, before you or a loved one goes down this path, let’s examine evidence why ketosis (and BHB salt products) probably don’t cure cancer.
The Contra Side Of Ketosis & Cancer
First “cancer” is not just one disease.  Cancer also does not have just one cause.  Cancers in humans can be caused by viruses (Yale J Biol Med, 2006 Dec; 79(3-4): 115–122), genetic defects
I can’t see how ketosis (or BHB salt products) is going to change your genetic programming.  It’s estimated that women who are HBOC gene positive have a 50%-80% chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime and those with the BRCA family of genes have similar rates.  The only really successful way to fully prevent HBOC/BRCA related breast cancer is by mastectomy which is also the preferred treatment method for this type of cancer. Yes, some SERMs like tamoxifen can sometimes be used to treat these malignancies (http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/hereditary-breast-and-ovarian-cancer) but more often than not, surgery us required to resect the lesion or the entire breast.
I also can’t see how ketosis or BHB salts will remove any asbestos that is lodged in the lungs of people with mesothelioma which is a type of lung cancer (https://www.mesothelioma.com/asbestos-cancer/).
OK, Bruce, maybe ketosis and BHB salts are not for “all cancers.” However, you yourself in this very blog post noted a couple of instances, brain and stomach cancers in particular, where ketosis seems to have a demonstrable anti-cancer effect.  So isn’t ketosis useful for treating those type of cancers?  Maybe.  But not based from the data of the two studies I cited above that most people reading this did not bother to go and vet/verify.  The “keto-cures-cancer crowd” loves to cite those two studies I noted above: Nutr Metab (Lond) 2007;4:5 &  BMC Cancer. 2008;8:122 as “proof” that ketosis absolutely can cure human cancers.
Since they are open sourced studies, instead of just putting them up as oblique references how about we link to the full studies and let you, the reader review them and see what you think?
The above is the infamous “brain cancer & keto” study.  In this study, we see a type of human neural cell cancer (glioma) being looked at.  While the cancer was indeed of “human type & origin” the study “subjects” were not.  The experiments were done on mice.  And not just your regular field mice, they were mice that were specifically bred have severe immunodeficiency (SCID mice).  Into the brains of these mice, xenografts of human malignant glioma cells were implanted and allowed to grow. But being in ketosis did not stop the growth of these transplanted, human brain tumors in these SCID mice.  Being ketotic merely reduced the rate of growth of the human brain tumors in SCID mice by 35%.  Not exactly a cure.  And not exactly shown to do anything at all in actual humans with brain cancer (glioma) who were not even participants in this study.
We’ve “cured cancer” hundreds of times in mice with hundreds of different methodologies only to see 100% of these “mouse cures” utterly fail when tried in humans.
The above is the infamous “stomach cancer & keto” study.  In this study, we see a type of human stomach cancer (adenoncarcinoma) being looked at.  While the cancer was once again of “a human type & origin” the study “subjects” were once again not.  The experiments were done on mice.  And of course, not just your regular field mice, these were a type of bred mice that known as “nude mice” – wondering what a “nude mouse” is?  It’s not a mouse with that lost its clothes!  It’s a mouse specifically bred to be…immunocompromised!
Researchers love nude mice because they are immunodeficient -  this essentially means that these mice can receive many different types of tissue and tumor xenografts without mounting an immunological/rejection response.
Anyhow, in this particular study, two dozen nude mice were implanted with human adenocarcinoma cells.  Of interesting note, the particular strain of human adenocarcinoma specifically chosen for this experiment was chosen specifically for it’s ability to metabolize glucose to lactate in the presence of oxygen.  Regardless of how you view that last sentence as “biasing” the study, all the mice, those that were put on a ketogenic diet and those who got the regular mouse chow diet, all of them developed tumors.  The ketogenic group developed them at a statistically slower rate but what is important to note is that ALL the mice died of the stomach cancer in this study, the mice on the ketogenic diet just took longer to do so (all mice were dead by Day 45 of the study in case you’re wondering).  Again, ketosis is not exactly shown as a “cancer cure” as demonstrated here.  And ketosis was not shown to do anything at all in actual humans – again - with stomach cancer (adenocarcinoma) as humans were not even participants in this study.
So, while this research is fascinating for sure, while it should be the basis for much more research (in humans next time?) and while it is absolutely inspires some hope for people with some very specific brain and stomach cancers? A cure for “any type of cancer in actual humans” neither study remotely demonstrates!
Cancer Cells Can Survive On Ketones 
Because I have heard ad nauseum from people who should know better that ketosis (and by extension, BHB salt products) can “starve a cancer” as discussed above, I became curious to see if any cancers can either adapt to actually use ketones instead of glucose as their source of energy or worse, actually are “pre-ketoadapted.” NOTE: THIS CLEARLY DOES NOT REMOTELY INDICATE THAT KETOSIS OR BHB SALTS CAUSES CANCER – THERE IS ABSOLUTELY ZERO EVIDENCE OF SUCH!  DO NOT MAKE THAT INFERENCE FROM THE INFORMATION BELOW. 
Three peer-reviewed and published papers (Cancer & Metabolism. 2015;3(1):3 - Journal of Neuro-Oncology 2017:1-9 & Nutrition & metabolism. 2013;10(1):47.)  all being studies conducted in actual humans, have identified that gliomas (remember them from above study in the mice?) can utilize ketone oxidation, possess one or more mitochondrial ketolytic enzymes, demonstrate subsequent tumor growth, and that even  cause new tumors to develop while study subjects were put on a ketogenic diet as an adjunct or monotherapy in trying to treat their cancers.   And it’s not just the glioma-based cancers that will happily use fatty acids/ketones as a fuel source either!  It should also be noted several other types of cancers actually prefer to use fatty acids or ketones as a fuel source to increase tumor bulk.   See:
BMC Cancer. 2011;11(1):56  [deals with breast cancer]
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. 2014;13(10):2361-71 [deals with prostate cancer]
Nature Medicine, 2011;17(11):1498-503 [deals with ovarian cancer]
Cell Cycle. 2012;11(21):3964-71 [deals with breast cancer]
Cell Cycle. 2012;11(6):1108-17 [deals with breast cancer]
Additionally, a study done in 2015 also shows that that in addition to the cancer types already noted above being able to exist just perfectly on fatty acids/ketones as a fuel source that there is strong evidence that some lymphomas and melanomas can as well (The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology. 2015;59:167-81)
There are going to be plenty of people from my side of the industry asking that very question!  Why would you even bring this up?  Why would you tell people that as of today, the empirical, statistical evidence is not in favor of ketosis and/or BHB salt products curing any type of cancer in humans?  I think the people who are going to ask me that really need to check their moral compasses.  Yeah, I want to sell a lot of Giant Keto, I want it to be the best selling BHB salt product on the market.  And rapidly its becoming just that.
But I want to sell it for what it is and what it really can do, not for what it most likely can’t do and even more critically I don’t want to see anyone get hurt because of a BHB salt product.  People with cancer suffer enough already and their families, friends and loved ones suffer along with them.  I think exploiting them, even indirectly in order to make fast money through the use of fantasy is completely repugnant.
If you are reading this and you have cancer, if you are thinking about a ketogenic diet and/or using a BHB salt product with the hopes that it’s going to cure or slow down your cancer?  Talk to your medical oncologist or hematologist before you embark down a path that is ridden with people who are more concerned about what is in your wallet than your overall health.
Why are there no added BCAAs in Giant Keto?
 This is the question I came into the office to find in my e-mail inbox:
“…wondering why you guys did not add in a good dose of 2:1:1 ratio BCAAs right into the Giant KETO powder product?  Is this not a natural fit?  Athletes love BCAAs and there is quite a bit of research demonstrating BCAAs are effective for athletes.  What gives?”
 For virtually all athletes – but especially for non-keto adapted athletes, BCAA powders have become almost a required staple in their arsenal of effective dietary supplements.  I’m going to provide some links to some studies for people who are unfamiliar with BCAAs and what they do (or may not do)/how they work right here in a variety of settings:
So there are a dozen reference (out of many dozens available, I decided to stop here).
The studies are a mixed bag – some show a lot of benefit with BCAA supplementation, some show some benefit with BCAA supplementation,, some show minimal to no benefit with BCAA supplementation.
One key point to remember, is that most people using BHB salt products like Giant KETO are in ketogenesis or keto-adapted as they are trying to lose bodyweight/bodyfat.  As such, a large part of their diets are going to come from BCAA rich foods (most keto-adapted  people are eating somewhere around 25% of their calories from whole proteins which are typically have plenty of BCAAs in them in peptide/polypeptide form).  So I am not sure that additional, free-form BCAAs are even needed.  Some of the studies cited above would also seem to indicate that in people trying to lose weight using caloric restricted (not necessarily using a ketogenic diet) tend not to see much or any benefits to BCAA supplementation.
Further, there is one study I am aware of (and it is JUST ONE STUDY) that seems to indicate that higher levels of BCAA and lipogenesis/adipogenesis:
Again, one study, and it’s still theoretical but if this is validated in the future, it would seem that having an overabundance of BCAA’s might cause more fat storage which is the very thing most people who use BHB salt products are trying to avoid.
And while leucine (arguably the most important of the BCAAs) is a ketogenic amino acid – it can’t be converted to glucose via direct gluconeogenesis and it might actually be useful for people in ketosis/a keto-adapted state, it is well known that valine is a glucogenic amino acid and isoleucine is both ketogenic/glucogenic.
So if I wanted to be really safe about this and I want to use BCAAs in this situation,  I am probably looking at just using free form leucine or a really leucine heavy blend of all the BCAAs, looking to eliminate or minimize free form valine and free form isoleucine ingestion.
There is some evidence too, to be truthful and transparent, that taking in additional BCAAs may not adversely affect ketosis although the sample size (N = 8) was small and the patient populace consisted of children with intractable epilepsy.  Of note, about 38% of the study participants experienced a slight increase in heart rate, which was ameliorated by removing the excess free-form BCAAs form their diets.
There are also some anecdotal comments on Reddit that read on added free form BCAAs possibly kicking people out of ketosis.
At the end of the day?  The added costs versus the “debatable” benefit and possible negative effects of added free form BCAAs led me to leave it out of this formula unless you just want to augment with free form leucine only or a really heavily weighted leucine BCAA blend.  If you feel you want to augment with additional BCAAs nonetheless, Giant Sports sells a really good 12:1:1 “l-leucine heavy” BCAA formula you can purchase below:
-Bruce Kneller
Check out the Giant Keto Product page, here [button link="https://giantsupps.com/product/giant-keto/" color="silver"] Giant Keto[/button]


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