Keto for Cancer? The Specific Way Low-Carb May Hinder Cancer Growth

If you have been diagnosed with cancer or its risk, you're probably looking into a lot of things that might help. It could be supplements, diets, juicing, detoxification, and a whole host of other things that might work.

One of those things are dietary changes. In particular, jumping on keto is gaining popularity.

But, this is something that can help or just another snake oil?

Let's Define Keto

keto, cancerKeto is short for ketosis or the ketogenic diet. The process of ketosis is a natural one, where the body breaks down fat into ketones to be used for energy. It's a natural process when carbohydrates are not in sufficient supply to provide energy for all our daily needs.

It became famous as a diet plan when Dr. Atkins promoted his low-carb diet. But, it's been around for a long time. Before the introduction of injectable insulin, it was the only type of diet that helps children live who had Type 1 diabetes.

After it became more popular, researchers looked into what it can do to help people be healthy. Turns out, our bodies do much better eating a lower carbohydrate diet. It's been shown to help everything from diabetes to cholesterol to weight loss to depression and so much more.

But, can it help cancer?

Unfortunately, research is scarce in this department. Much of what we know comes from anecdotal evidence and general theory.

How Cancer Grows

keto, cancerIn a slightly oversimplified generalization: cancer is a mutation of a normal cell that just won't stop growing and reproducing. We know that all cancers have a few things in common:

  • Unchecked growth
  • High demand for blood and nutrients
  • Destruction of nearby tissues

Many cancers seem to be dependent on the insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 levels, and demand sugars to sustain it’s growth.

Cancer takes over everything and demands more than anything else in the body. Destroying the cancer is the only way to stop it.

How Medications Hinder Cancer Growth

One theory is that if you can starve the cancer cells of what it needs to grow, it will die. A low-carb diet is thought to give chemotherapy and other treatments a better chance of succeeding.

Some chemotherapies utilize this principle to block cellular metabolism in the cancer cells. Radiation disrupts the ability of cancer to replicate and function normally. Some of the newest breakthrough medications target the specific enzymes and biomarkers for certain cancers and block their ability to absorb nutrients, replicate, and heal.

Since cancer is a high energy-demand growth, robbing it of sugars or carbohydrates of that energy makes sense. This is especially true since most cancer cells do not seem to have the ability to utilize ketones for energy.

This is why low-carb and ketogenic diets are gaining popularity. People choose to lower their carb intake rather than relying on medication as the sole source of blocking a cancer's energy production. Some preliminary results and anecdotal reports indicate it's partially successful.

However, this conflicts with the majority of the doctor and dietitian recommended therapies of eating high carbohydrates meals to prevent weight loss and keep energy levels up. They promote eating anything you can, particularly if it's high energy.

Before you start a low-carb diet, especially when you have cancer, you should talk to your doctor. Weight loss during cancer events can happen very quickly and dangerously, and low-carb diets can cause additional weight loss.

How To Start Keto Right Now

keto, cancerIf you're choosing to start low-carb dieting and implement the ketogenic diet, be sure to do it the smart way.

Focus on Fruits and Vegetables: Despite popular opinion, low-carb diets focus on fruits and vegetables. They just choose fruits and vegetables that have lower carbohydrates. This is because your body needs lots of nutrients and the majority of all nutrients are found in fruits and vegetables.

Avoid Processed Foods. Many of the preservatives and added flavors of processed foods are carcinogenic. Plus, processed foods tend to be high in sugars.

Avoid Artificial Sugars. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose place a heavy burden on your liver, affecting how chemotherapy works. Additionally, it can alter your insulin which can increase your risk of diabetes.

Drink Plenty Of Water. Low carb diets place a large stress on your kidneys to filter out the ketones and excess proteins out of your blood. Having enough hydration in your system can help preserve kidney function and reduce pain.

Keep In Touch With Your Doctor. If you're going through cancer, especially if you're going through chemotherapy or radiation, discuss with your doctor frequently how your body is doing. Losing too much weight, gaining weight, or sudden changes in your energy level or blood work can indicate a problem. Frequent check-ins can help reduce chances of a severe problem.


Cancer is challenging, and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help. Before you jump on a ketogenic diet, come talk to your doctor and follow the proper recommendations of getting enough fruits and vegetables in your diet to stay as healthy as possible.