The Evidence Against The Ketogenic Diet For Cancer

by health and nutrition advice journalist

The ketogenic diet was the most popular diet searched on Google in 2018 and has officially reached mega-fad status, as did the Atkins Diet in its heyday.

If you don’t know what the ketogenic diet is, there are, by my estimation, 1.2 zillion articles about it online, so I’m not going to re-explain it here, but basically the ketogenic diet is a diet comprised of 70-80% fat, too much protein, and almost zero carbohydrates.

Before I dig in to the ketogenic diet for cancer, I need to say this… Obesity is the second leading cause of cancer. If you are overweight, getting back down to a healthy weight range with a normal BMI will improve your health and reduce your risk factors for cancer and many other chronic diseases. I have never met a doctor or health expert who doesn’t agree with that statement.

It can also be said that every weight loss method improves various aspects of your health in the short term. Typical improvements related to weight loss are reductions in inflammation, hormone levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose, even reversal of type 2 diabetes, and more.


Every weight loss method improves your health in the short term.

You can lose weight quickly smoking crack and crystal meth. And any health issues you have which are related to being overweight will likely resolve, because you lost weight! But no one in their right mind would attribute the benefits of weight loss to crack smoking, because it’s unhealthy, unsustainable, and causes long term damage to your body… which brings us to the ketogenic diet.

There is no population of people on earth who eat a ketogenic diet and have exceptional health and long lifespans. Even the Inuits/Eskimos, who eat high fat diets, are not in ketosis, and they have short lifespans to boot! This is not a population you want to emulate.

This 2018 study found that people who eat low-carb diets have shorter lifespans (four years shorter on average), unless they eat low-carb vegan diets. Here’s a quote from the conclusion of that study…

“Low carbohydrate dietary patterns favouring animal-derived protein and fat sources, from sources such as lamb, beef, pork, and chicken, were associated with higher mortality, whereas those that favoured plant-derived protein and fat intake, from sources such as vegetables, nuts, peanut butter, and whole-grain breads, were associated with lower mortality…”

Another 2018 study reported that people who ate the lowest-carb diets (ahem, keto) had a 32% increased risk of death from ANY cause than those eating the highest amount of carbs.

The researchers also found that low-carb dieters had a 51% increased risk of dying from heart disease and a 35% increased risk of dying from cancer compared to people who ate the most carbohydrates.

In 2016 the results of the NUSI metabolic ward study were published, in which low carb diets were tested against low-fat diets for weight loss in humans, and they found that low-fat diets work better!

Ditching processed food and animal food and adopting a naturally low-fat whole foods plant-based diet will do wonders for your health and you will lose weight without even trying!

To sum it up, low-carb and ketogenic diets will cause weight loss, but they aren’t as effective as low-fat diets. And they are terrible for you. And they increase your risk of an early death.

However, there is tremendous value in short-term ketosis. The natural process of ketosis induced by a 3-5 day water fast or the plant-based ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet has powerful benefits in the body including autophagy, as well as stem cell activation and immune system regeneration. You can learn more about that in my interview with world-renowned scientist and longevity expert Dr. Valter Longo here.

But what about the ketogenic diet for cancer?

The ketogenic diet has dominated the cancer conversation in recent years thanks to the rapid dissemination of misinformation on the internet by opportunists, fad exploiters, click baiters, book and supplement sellers, and a few sincere, but sincerely wrong, people.

So let’s set the opinions of your favorite health gurus and internet doctors aside for a moment and go straight to the science…

There are several studies in which researchers implanted human gliomas (brain cancer) into the bodies of rats (a completely unrealistic scenario) and reported that the rats lived longer on a ketogenic diet.

In this study, rats with human brain cancer implanted in their bodies lived 56% longer on a ketogenic diet combined with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. “56% longer” sounds huge until you learn that the average keto+oxygen therapy survival was 55 days compared to the control rats who lived 31 days. And all the rats still died of cancer.

In another study, rats with human brain cancer implanted in their bodies achieved complete remission when fed a keto meal replacement shake called KetoCal and treated with radiation. Rats treated with a ketogenic diet (KetoCal) without radiation only lived 5 days longer than standard diet rats.

In this pilot study, 16 human patients with advanced cancer reported that the ketogenic diet had some “improvements in their quality of life,” but none were cured.

This 2012 study showed that tumors can use ketones for fuel. Yes you read that right. Unlike the popular kept myth that “cancer cells can’t use ketones for fuel”, they most certainly can. Many types of cancer cells are metabolically flexible. If you starve them of glucose, it can weaken them or slow them down for a short time, but they will eventually adapt to use fatty acids or glutamine for fuel.

This 2014 study found that a ketogenic diet helped anti-angiogenic chemo drug bevacizumab work a little better for glioblastoma in humans, but had no effect alone.

According to a 2015 review of the literature on the ketogenic diet for human glioma patients (32 case studies), “Prolonged remissions ranging from more than 5 years to 4 months were reported in the case reports. Only one of these patients was treated using the ketogenic diet as monotherapy. The best responses reported in the more recent patient series were stable disease for approximately 6 weeks.” Like I said, in some cases the keto diet might slow the cancer down for a bit, then it adapts and kept growing.

The ketogenic diet can speed up cancer growth

A 2017 study published in Cell found that a genetic mutation called BRAF V600E allows cancer cells to use ketones to grow faster. This mutation is present in 50% of melanomas, 10% of colon cancers, 100% of hairy cell leukemias, and 5% of multiple myelomas.

A 2018 study found that the ketogenic diet combined with PI3K-inhibiting drugs slowed tumor growth in mice better than the drug alone, but the mice given the ketogenic diet alone had accelerated progression of acute myeloid leukemia. The keto diet made the cancer grow faster.

Another 2018 study found that fat fuels aggressive brain cancers. Slow-dividing glioblastoma cells, which are more invasive and resistant to therapies than the fast dividing cells, use fat, not glucose, for energy.

In December 2018, a review of all published studies on the ketogenic diet for cancer was published which stated that clinical trials using the ketogenic diet for cancer have “largely failed to prove survival prolonging effects.” But that it still might have “potential” if combined with chemotherapy.

The ketogenic diet has repeatedly been shown NOT to cure cancer as a monotherapy in rodents or humans.

It is my opinion that the best anti-cancer diet, which I discuss at length on this blog and in my book, is a mostly raw, organic, whole foods plant-based diet. Why? Because I know lots of holistic survivors, myself included, who have healed cancer with that exact dietary strategy. I’ve interviewed 60+ of them here.

We can learn from the experience of others.
If you want to be successful, imitate successful people. And if you’re serious about healing and preventing cancer, I want to encourage you to incorporate the dietary and healing strategies used by people who’ve actually healed themselves of cancer. That’s why this site exists!

My new book Chris Beat Cancer: A Comprehensive Plan for Healing Naturally, published by Hay House, is a National Bestseller as ranked by USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly! Get it on Amazon here or anywhere books are sold.

I’ve interviewed over 60 people who’ve healed all types and stages of cancer. Check them out here. Or use the search bar to find survivors of specific cancer types.

I also created a coaching program for cancer patients, caregivers and anyone who is serious about prevention called SQUARE ONE. It contains the step-by-step strategies used by myself and everyone I know who has healed cancer with nutrition and natural, non-toxic therapies.

This content was originally published here.

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