Can Ketogenic Diets Fight Cancer?

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN

A ketogenic diet is where carbs are limited and ketones (fats) are the body’s main source of energy. The ketogenic diet was first made popular as an epilepsy treatment. It helped children manage seizures before the invention of anticonvulsant drugs.

And while it’s gone out of favor as an epilepsy treatment, the diet is now being revisited for a whole different purpose: as a cancer therapy.

Researchers from the University of South Florida found that a combination of oxygen therapy and a ketogenic diet stopped the spread of cancer in mice and increased their survival. The results were published in the journal, PLoS One.

Mice with Cancer on a Ketogenic Diet Lived 78% Longer

For the study, mice were either fed either a standard diet (control) or a ketogenic diet, and each of these two groups were analyzed with or without additionally administered hyperbaric oxygen therapy (a form of therapy which increases the amount of oxygen in cells). A lack of oxygen is thought to fuel cancer growth.

The mice had evidence of metastasis, in which the cancer had spread from its original location. Tumor growth was analyzed using a bioluminescent technology.

According to the results of the study, mice receiving the ketogenic diet and mice receiving the ketogenic diet together with hyperbaric oxygen improved. The mice on the ketogenic diet together with hyperbaric oxygen lived, on average, almost 78% longer, while the ketogenic diet alone increased survival time by an average of 56%.1

How Does a Ketogenic Diet Work?

The premise behind the ketogenic diet is that sugar is the primary source of energy for cancer cells. In depriving the human body of sugar, cancer cells are starved since they can’t use ketones for energy.

There isn’t much research examining the effect of the ketogenic diet on humans, and the research is conflicting with some trials showing benefits and others not.

Most of the studies involve animals and other data were obtained from case reports. The study of the ketogenic diet as a cancer treatment is in the early, experimental stages.

While this diet isn’t for everybody, especially cancer patients who have lost a significant amount of weight, it may be an option for people who have not been successful with other therapies.

It’s becoming a popular option for individuals with glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer that is difficult to treat.

Regardless, a cancer patient can modify his or her diet to limit the amount of simple carbohydrates, since they are a significant source of sugar in one’s diet. While it’s not exactly the ketogenic diet, it may be a more sustainable approach for someone who is looking to benefit nutritionally.


1. PLoS One. 2013 Jun 5;8(6):e65522.


Carlos Monteiro said...

There are some news about ketogenic diet and cancer.

An hypothesis* recently published support ketogenic diets for prevention and therapy for cancer. This inside the reasoning that while fats do not have appreciable effects on the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) or in lactate formation, high carbohydrate diets have significantly effects on both SNS and lactate

*Carlos ETB Monteiro, “Stress as the Inductive Factor for Increased Lactate Production: The Evolutionary Path to Carcinogenesis”. Positive Health Online, Edition 241, October, 2017 at

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