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Keto Diet: Cancer Prevention Strategy That Really Works?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/03/2019

 The ketogenic diet is very popular for helping people with weight loss and becoming healthy. But could it have even greater health benefits beyond shedding a few pounds? Could the ketogenic diet play a role in fighting off serious diseases like cancer? In this article, we look into the link between the keto diet, cancer, and staying healthy.

The ketogenic diet has helped many cancer patients see great results. Brain cancer survivor Logan Sneed, for example, used the ketogenic diet during his cancer treatment. Hear more about Logan's inspiring story.

How the ketogenic diet and ketosis work

The ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet. On the ketogenic diet, you eat low-carbohydrate, moderate-protein, high-fat meals.

Without carbs as fuel, your cells turn to fat to create energy. When they burn fat for fuel, cells create something called ketones. When your ketone levels rise, it is called being in a state of ketosis.

Ketones are a preferred source of fuel for cells. When you eat keto, over time your body adapts to this metabolic pattern. Your cells build new machinery to keep using fat as fuel long term.

The basic idea behind the diet is to use healthy eating patterns and low-carb foods to burn fat and lose weight.

And it turns out that becoming keto-adapted is actually helpful for preventing and even reversing cancer, too.

The basics of cancer

Most of us associate cancer with tumors. We understand that cancer involves unusual growths. And we know that these growths can spread throughout the body and become fatal. But how do cells become cancerous and grow into tumors?

The cell cycle: a controlled copy machine

Normal cells grow and multiply. But it isn't a free-for-all. They duplicate through a highly regulated process called the cell cycle. This is similar to how a copy machine works. Cells duplicate themselves so that we have fresh, new cells to keep healthy.

This process must be tightly controlled. Overgrowth of cells is not good and can cause serious damage. It can lead to cancer and tumors.

In order to prevent that, our bodies rely on a gene to make sure we don't make too many new cells. It is called the tumor suppressor gene.

With cancer, that gene becomes mutated. As a result, cell growth gets out of control. Cancerous cells begin to grow, multiply, spread, and ultimately destroy the entire body.

Malignant cancer cells dividing and multiplying to illustrate tumor growth | Keto Diet Cancer Prevention Strategy

What makes a normal cell turn into a cancerous cell?

The first thing that "triggers" cancer is damage to a particular part of the cell. This part is called the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell. They are where cells create energy in order to survive.

Lots of things can damage these energy centers. Some culprits include toxins in your food, poisons in the environment, radiation, and more.

Once the mitochondrion is damaged, the cell must figure out how to adapt in order to survive. In this case, the cell opts for a different metabolic pathway than usual to create energy.

Normal cells use a metabolic pathway called aerobic respiration. Aerobic means with oxygen. Damaged cells use anaerobic respiration. Aerobic uses oxygen to create energy, while anaerobic does not use oxygen.

Healthy cells can use several fuel sources to create energy, including ketones. Cancerous cells, on the other hand, use glucose. This an important difference, which we will focus on later.

Changes to our genes and our DNA also occur. This results in mutations, which mess with our cell copy machinery. Cancerous cells begin growing and multiplying out of control. This ultimately leads to tumors and metastasis.

With cancer, you also see an increase in a process called angiogenesis. This means the formation of new blood vessels. It is a natural process, but it becomes ramped up in areas of cancer growth. Tumors need their own blood supply to survive. So tumors create lots of new blood vessels to "feed" themselves.

Conventional treatments for cancer

Most cancer patients receive cancer treatment that involves radiation and chemotherapy. These are designed to cut off the blood supply to tumors and to kill the cancer cells.

Both of these treatments have long lists of side effects and are very hard on cancer patients.

So what else can we do? What other choices do we have?

Taking a different approach to cancer

Knowing the biology of cancer, there are two things that aren't focused on nearly enough. Taking a different approach, we can either:

1. Prevent damage in the first place by protecting our cells. This means limiting exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation.


2. Help starve cancer cells of the fuel they need to survive and grow.

This is a key piece of fighting cancer. And it is why using the keto diet for cancer prevention is so powerful.

Healthy low-carb ketogenic diet foods – salmon, avocado, eggs, broccoli, nuts, peppers, and meat | Keto Diet Cancer Prevention Strategy

The link between keto diet and cancer

One of the best ways to fight cancer is to take away the fuel that it needs. If we cut damaged cells off from their fuel supply, then they can't survive.

This is why it is important to know one major difference between normal cells and cancerous cells.

The keto diet starves cancer of glucose

Cancer cells can only use glucose for fuel. They cannot use ketones, like normal cells. The way cancer prefers glucose for fuel is called "the Warburg effect."

Cancer lives on sugar. Watch me explain this concept here.

And so the ketogenic diet comes into play.

When we eat lots of carbs, our blood glucose levels rise. This allows glucose to be available as fuel, feeding cancer cells. But if we eat low-carb meals, we limit the amount of glucose in the body. This starves cancer cells of their primary energy source.

When we are in ketosis, only normal cells can use the energy source available - ketones.

Following a ketogenic diet with limited carbs is a strong cancer-fighting strategy. When your body adapts to using ketones, you allow healthy cells to be fueled while starving cancerous ones.

Keto helps fight cancer by lowering Fat Storing Hormone

Cancer cells have 10-20 times more Fat Storing Hormone receptors on their surfaces than other cells. Fat Storing Hormone promotes cell growth. When we have a lot of Fat Storing Hormone, tumors grow quicker. When we have less, tumor growth is slowed.

By limiting your carb intake, you keep your blood sugar and Fat Storing Hormone levels down. This slows tumor growth.

This is another reason why the keto diet is so helpful with cancer. Fat Storing Hormone helps cancer to grow at a faster rate, and so we need to keep Fat Storing Hormone levels down. With keto, we do just that.

Intermittent fasting is important, too

My healthy keto approach also includes intermittent fasting. This eating pattern is another reason why the ketogenic diet can help fight cancer.

Fasting shifts the chemical pathways used in the cells in a way that protects against cancer. And it also protects mitochondria. It helps normal cells to survive, but not cancerous ones.

Learn more about this topic in this video. The ketogenic lifestyle is about more than just the foods you eat, but also about the habits you adopt. It's about the way you eat, not just about what you eat.

Opting for the healthiest keto foods

Eating a ketogenic diet and doing intermittent fasting is a great place to start. But are they enough?

I don't think so. To truly fight cancer, you need to choose high-quality food choices. And you need to include healthy anti-cancer foods.

Healthy KetoTM is all about eating quality foods with lots of nutrients. It is not just about lowering carbs.

First, you need to eat all organic. Eating clean foods lowers your exposure to toxins, which prevents damage to your cells.

Eating lots of superfoods is also important.

Anti-cancer foods work in numerous ways. They are high in phytonutrients that have positive effects in the body. For example, they can help by cutting off blood supply to tumors. Or they might help by boosting the immune system. They can also help start to repair and heal your mitochondria.

Basket of cruciferous vegetables, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower | Keto Diet Cancer Prevention Strategy

5 cancer-fighting superfoods to eat on the ketogenic diet

1. Garlic

is on the top of the list of foods that fight cancer. It is great for immunity. And it can kill cancer cells within 30 minutes without side effects.

2. Cruciferous vegetables

are packed with nutrients and are very important to include in your ketogenic diet. They also naturally help to cut off cancer's blood supply.

3. Broccoli sprouts

have several health benefits. They help with both preventing and reversing cancer. The sprout form is far more potent than adult broccoli.

4. Delion leaf

is another great anti-cancer option. And it can be found in your own backyard! You can buy dandelion leaves from farmer's markets, too.

5. Green tea

also helps to stop the blood supply to tumors. It also helps eliminate glutamine, which can also feed cancer cells.

This is just a small selection. Plenty of foods in the diet, especially vegetables, are great for fighting off cancer.

Research on keto and cancer

Research on this topic is in its early stages. And we still need more clinical trials to learn more.

But so far, things look positive.

For example, studies have shown reduced tumor growth and improved survival. This was seen in animal models of different cancers. The majority of animal studies show the diet has anti-tumor effects.

One review study concluded that the keto diet is "a promising and powerful option for adjuvant therapy for a range of cancers."

Keto diet and cancer: the bottom line

In the end, it is as simple as this.

All healthy, good cells can use ketones as fuel. Cancerous cells cannot. They cannot keto-adapt. Therefore, they must have glucose to survive.

So if you want to stop cancer from growing, which diet would you choose?

One full of carbs and glucose?Or the ketogenic diet?

Or even better, a healthy keto diet packed with nutrients and organic cancer-fighting foods?

Keto and More: Best Practices for Cancer Prevention

Eating a healthy, clean, ketogenic diet is a great place to start. This is true whether you are going through cancer treatment or are looking to reduce your risk.

You will also want to reduce your toxin exposure. It is important to limit damage to your cells in the first place. That damage is the first trigger that leads to cancer. So keep your cells happy by making healthy choices. It's always easier to prevent damage than it is to manage a problem once it starts.

Choose non-toxic products in your home. Always opt for organic. And be careful with toxins in your environment.

For breast cancer, you can also help yourself by keeping estrogen levels in check. Sea kelp and cruciferous veggies are good to add to your diet. Avoid soy, GMOs, and toxins. Watch out for chemicals called endocrine disruptors (like BPA). These increase breast cancer risk.


A ketogenic diet is a great option for keeping safe from cancer. Whether you are one of the many suffering cancer patients, someone who is at high risk, or you just want to do your best to stay healthy, give the diet a try.

This diet is a powerful way to starve cancer and prevent it from ever becoming a problem.

Make sure that your Healthy KetoTM lifestyle goes beyond just the basics of avoiding carbs. Choose clean, organic foods that are free of toxins. And pack healthy foods into your diet that fight cancer and supply you with nutrients. Avoid toxins in your environment, too. This will help keep your body healthy in the first place.

So don't wait. Start now with a healthy ketogenic lifestyle and diet.

Do you have experience with the ketogenic diet and cancer? Share with us in the comments. 

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